In addition to the massive destruction in
Jenin and Nablus during Israel’s April 2002 military offensive in the
West Bank, Israeli occupying forces regularly destroy Palestinian
property in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), “cleansing”
land of Palestinians and sometimes later appropriating it for either
army or settler use. The extensive, unlawful, and wanton destruction
or expropriation of property not justified by military necessity is a
war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel often claims that Palestinians
use houses and land as bases from which to attack Israeli military
posts and illegal settlements. Yet most destruction of property in
the Gaza strip mostly takes place without any judicial process,
including presentation of evidence, adequate warning, or opportunity
for appeal. In some refugee camps, swathes of houses have been
destroyed to create “buffer zones” between Israeli army
positions and Palestinian areas. Israeli forces also demolish
houses of alleged “terrorists” or their families, even though
collective punishment is prohibited by the Convention.
forces have demolished at least 947 housing units in the
Gaza strip during the al-Aqsa Intifada, rendering thousands
of Palestinians homeless.
Often, families are woken in the middle of the night to find an
Israeli army bulldozer outside and given minutes to collect whatever
belongings they can before the demolition begins. The destruction
of a house and its contents is a crushing economic blow for most
Palestinians, from which financial recovery is almost impossible.
The Israeli Supreme
Court in March 2002 chose to legalise house demolitions in
the OPT rather than ban them, while ruling that the army must give
an opportunity for appeal. Israeli forces have since demolished a
number of houses without warning, however, in violation of the
Supreme Court ruling.
are also carried out by Israeli authorities in occupied east
Jerusalem. These demolitions are often
justified on the pretext that such houses were built without a
proper permit, even though discriminatory building regulations make
obtaining a permit almost impossible for Palestinians.
forces have razed approximately 17,500 donums
of land in the
Gaza strip, most of it
agricultural, during the al-Aqsa Intifada, or approximately
10% of the total arable land of the Gaza strip, crippling the
livelihoods of thousands of farmers. This often entails the
destruction of trees, greenhouses, wells, irrigation networks, and
storage facilities. Even if hostilities were to cease immediately,
restoring this land to full agricultural use would take years.
[Last updated 12 March 2003]