Uprooting Palestinian Trees

And Leveling Agricultural Land

The Nigh Report on Israeli Land Sweeping and Demolition of Palestinian Buildings and Facilities in the Gaza Strip

01st July,2002 – 31st March, 2003

  

  

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations

Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – Geneva

Member of the International Federation for Human Rights – Paris

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

 E-mail: pchr@pchrgaza.org

web-Page: www.pchrgaza.org

 

 

 

Introduction

 This is the ninth in a series of reports published by PCHR on Israeli Land Sweeping and Demolition of Palestinian Buildings and Facilities in the Gaza Strip.  Since the beginning of the current al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have systematically razed areas of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed houses and civilian facilities throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). 

 According to PCHR’s documentation, over the period under study, 1 July 2002 – 31 March 2003,[1] Israeli occupying forces razed 3135.5 donums[2] of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed dozens of irrigation networks, water pumps, beehives, animal and bird farms and agricultural stores in the Gaza Strip.

 Also during this reporting period, Israeli occupying forces totally demolished 494 Palestinian houses and damaged hundreds of others in the Gaza Strip, rendering 4499 Palestinian civilians (about 642 families) homeless.[3]   

 Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada until 31 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces have razed a total of 16,466 donums of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip. This constitutes approximately 10% of the total area of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip. 

 The Gaza Strip remains one of the most densely populated areas in the world; approximately 1.3 million Palestinians live on 58% of the total of 365 square kilometers which constitutes the geographical area of the Gaza Strip.  The remaining 42% or at least 180 square kilometers is controlled by the Israeli occupying forces.  This land is used for the establishment of illegal settlements, settler bypass roads and buffer zones around the settlements and settlement roads.  PCHR remains concerned that this ongoing destruction and de facto confiscation of Palestinian agricultural land will severely impact on the productivity of the Palestinian agricultural sector. 

 From the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada until 31 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces totally demolished 1064 Palestinian houses in the Gaza Strip, rendering 9943 Palestinian civilians (1421 families) homeless.  These families have not received any form of reparation, including compensation, from the Israeli government or military for their losses. 

 The Rafah town and refugee camp, located in the south of the Gaza Strip adjacent to the border with Egypt, has been the focus of the Israeli military house demolition policy in the OPTs.  From the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada until 31 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces demolished 572 Palestinian houses in Rafah, approximately 53.8% of the total number of houses demolished by Israeli occupying forces in the Gaza Strip.  Several thousand Palestinian homes were also damaged, many of which were rendered uninhabitable.  Hundreds of families have been rendered homeless.   During this reporting period, Israeli occupying forces totally demolished 319 houses in Rafah, approximately 64.6% of the total number of houses demolished in the Gaza Strip in this period.  Most of these demolitions were conducted in areas of Rafah which are located along the border with Egypt.  It appears that the Israeli occupying forces are attempting to establish a flat buffer zone to expand control over the border.  Through creating buffer zones, Israeli occupying forces appear also to be attempting to expand transport links between “Gush Qatif” settlement block, which is established illegally on Palestinian land, and Israel.

 The ongoing Israeli military policy of land-leveling and confiscation has resulted in a major reduction in agricultural production throughout the OPTs.  Since agricultural activities are the primary source of income for Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the decline in agricultural production has impacted not only on availability of produce for the domestic market, but it has also impacted on the wider economic development of the OPTs. 

 The Israeli military policies of land leveling and house demolition have also had a disastrous impact on the environment, including water resources, in the Gaza Strip.  Israeli occupying forces have destroyed a large number of wells and water networks, contaminating water supplies, and have also prohibited the establishment of new wells.  Furthermore, they have destroyed or damaged sewage treatment and waste disposal infrastructure.  Local and international experts have warned of the potential environmental impact of Israeli actions, such as the removal of sand dunes and destruction of trees and crops, which may contribute to the desertification of the Gaza Strip. 

 PCHR contends that destruction of Palestinian agricultural sources, including uprooting of trees, destruction of crops, leveling of and denial of access to agricultural land, and the demolition of Palestinian homes and other facilities, are imposed by the Israeli occupying forces as a form of collective punishment against the wider Palestinian population.  Israeli occupying forces often claim that these operations are conducted for security reasons, that foliage and properties destroyed provide cover for attacks on Israeli targets in OPTs.  However, evidence is rarely provided to support such claims and the scale on which these operations take place, the lack of warning, failure to provide compensation, and the force with which these operations are often conducted do not support Israeli claims. Furthermore, the location of these areas of land-leveling and demolition are almost invariably in areas around settlements, and border areas; thereby creating areas of buffer zones which are de facto incorporated into the settlements or border control by the denial of access to the land.  This denial of access to the land is generally enforced through establishment of fencing or by sniper fire, or arrest and detention of Palestinians attempting to access the land, in order to tend to crops, collect equipment, etc. 

 

Violations of International Humanitarian Law

 Since 1967, the international community has considered Israel as a belligerent occupying power, and the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as occupied territories.  Thus, the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 (the Fourth Geneva Convention) is applicable to these areas, and Israel, as a High Contracting Party to this Convention, is legally obligated to respect the provisions contained therein.   As this report will attempt to demonstrate, the Israeli policy of destroying Palestinian agricultural land and facilities in the OPTs, constitutes systematic breeches of international humanitarian law, in particular this policy contravenes the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

 The Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically provides for the protection of civilian property.  Article 53 provides that “any destruction of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or other public authorities, or social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” Article 147 defines the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” as a grave breach of the Convention.  This is further clarified as a war crime in article 85 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.

 The Israeli military policy of land-leveling and property destruction also contravenes Israel's obligations under international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to which Israel is a State Party. In particular, article 1 of the ICESCR states that “in no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence," and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary and unlawful interference with his…home.”.  Furthermore, the UN Committee against Torture concluded in November 2001 that the Israeli military policies of house demolition considered that the policy of house demolition may in certain circumstances constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


 

Land Leveling and House Demolition

 In spite of the hollow security rational Israeli occupying forces use in an attempt to justify the excessive destruction of Palestinian land and houses, PCHR contends that Israeli forces carry out this destruction with covert intentions and hidden goals, the most significant of which are:

 

Settlement Expansion

Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have seized control over large areas of Palestinian agricultural land, particularly those adjacent to Israeli settlements, razed the crops and demolished houses located on the land, and then de facto annexed the area to Israeli settlements.  In the Gaza Strip Israeli forces have de facto annexed areas of Palestinian agricultural land surrounding the “Dogit,” “Elli Sinai” and “Nissanit” settlements in this manner. 

 Since 1967, Israeli occupying forces have confiscated Palestinian lands on which to establish settlements, and have then transferred Israelis to live on the confiscated land, persuading and encouraging Israelis to reside in settlements by offering them financial privileges and other benefits.  This Israeli settlement policy is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and constitutes a war crime as defined in Additional Protocol One to the Geneva Conventions which specifically prohibits an occupying power from importing its population into the territory it occupies  (Article 85).  While the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization were being negotiated and since the signing of this agreement in 1993, Israel has actually accelerated the expansion of settlements in the OPT, through the increasing transfer of Israeli citizens into the OPTs, and the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian lands for the expansion of the settlement programme.  In the Gaza Strip, this has mainly included confiscation of land for construction of roads and for the establishment of buffer zones around settlements.

 

Establishing Bypass Roads

 Israeli occupying forced have confiscated Palestinian lands not only for the establishment of settlements, but also to establish bypass roads constructed for the exclusive use of Israeli settlers and soldiers.  For instance, on Monday, 13 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces established a new road linking the Salah al-Din and Sultan ‘Abdul Hamid streets in the northern Gaza Strip.  The road was established on areas of Palestinian agricultural land that had already been razed by Israeli occupying forces.  On 10 April 2001, Israeli occupying forces also confiscated approximately 240 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in the al-Sumairi area north of Khan Yunis in order to establish a road bridge linking the “Gush Qatif” settlement block in the west and Israeli territories in the east.

 

Creating Buffer Zones

 Security “necessities” claimed by Israeli occupying forces to justify the destruction and confiscation of Palestinian civilian property often are not justified my military necessity and fail to provide clear security advantages, rather, PCHR contends that these actions are primarily intended as a form of land annexation and a means of isolating and restricting the movement of the Palestinian population.   The Israeli practice of confiscating Palestinian land and creating buffer zones along the border of the Gaza Strip and near settlements and bypass roads is an example of this type of policy.  According to PCHR’s documentation, Israeli occupying forces have razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land and demolished hundreds of houses along the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, to create a buffer zone 10km long and 200m wide, thus establishing Israeli control over 220 donums of Palestinian land, and then constructing a separating wall along the border with Egypt.  In addition, Israeli occupying forces have razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land east of al-Maghazi in the central Gaza Strip and within Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, after which they established separating walls and a buffer zone between Egypt and the town of Rafah in the Gaza Srip.

 

 

     
Land Leveling

 Over the period under study, 1 July 2002 – 31 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces razed approximately 3135.6 donums of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed 357 irrigation networks, 102 wells, 65 greenhouses and 46 water pumps. 

 

Table (1): destruction of agricultural land and equipment by Israeli occupying forces

1 July 2002 – 31 March 2003

 

Area

Donums

Irrigation networks

Wells

Greenhouses

Water pumps

Rafah

176.5

49

8

43

18

Khan Yunis

490

54

3

4

2

Central Gaza Strip

701.5

85

20

73

18

Gaza

268

21

6

--

--

Northern Gaza Strip

1499.6

148

65

45

8

Total

3135.6

357

102

165

46

 

 Most land leveling operations have taken place at border areas and in Palestinian areas adjacent to illegal Israeli settlements. 

 Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with tanks and bulldozers, regularly encroach into targeted areas at night. These operations usually commence with the firing of flare bombs and live ammunition.  They then raze land, destroying crops, uprooting trees, and destroying equipment or property on the land.  No warning is usually given to the civilians in the area, and land and property owners are not given an opportunity to rescue crops, or equipment.  Below is a list of land leveling operations documented by PCHR during this reporting period.

 

The Northern Gaza Strip 

 Over the period under study, Israeli occupying forces razed 1499.6 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in the northern Gaza Strip.  Most land leveling operations took place near the border with Israel, east of Beit Hanoun, and in the areas near the Israeli settlements of “Dogit,” “Elli Sinai” and “Nissanit” near the Palestinian town of Beit Lahia.  The following are case-studies of some of the most serious land razing operations by Israeli forces during the period under study:

 

§     At approximately 02:30 on Sunday, 11 August 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 350m into al-Qatbania area adjacent to the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, east of Beit Hanoun.  The operation continued until Tuesday morning, 13 August.  During the operation a total of 20 donums of Palestinian agricultural land was razed.

 

§    At approximately 06:30 on 26 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces positioned in military locations in the vicinity of "Elli Sinai" and "Nissanit" settlements, north of Beit Lahia, killed a Palestinian gunman following a firefight.  After the man was shot dead, Israeli occupying forces, covered by intense shooting from other Israeli soldiers, moved approximately 1500m into Beit Lahia.  They began to search Palestinian agricultural land in the area.  They arrested six Palestinian farmers and transferred them to the Israeli-controlled Erez industrial zone north of Beit Hanoun.  The farmers were interrogated until 22:00 and then released.  During the search operation, Israeli occupying forces razed a 15-donum area of agricultural land planted with guavas, figs and pomegranates, destroyed an irrigation network and damaged a 5-donum area of agricultural land planted with vegetables owned by Ramadan Khader Ibrahim Salman and his brothers.

 

§    At approximately 08:00 on Friday, 18 October 2002, Israeli occupying forces started to raze areas of Palestinian agricultural land and destroy agricultural equipment south of the “Elli Sinai” settlement in the northern Gaza Strip. The land leveling operation continued until 16:00, razing approximately 10 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 

§        At approximately 08:00, Israeli forces started razing areas of Palestinian agricultural land north of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.  The operation continued until 17:00, during which time 35 donums of Palestinian agricultural land were razed. 

 

§       At approximately 00:30 on Monday, 13 January 2003, Israeli heavy military vehicles, covered by intense gunfire and supported by helicopters, moved from Beit Hanoun crossing towards the entrance of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.  Two Israeli military bulldozers destroyed the main road leading to the town.  The Israeli forces withdrew from the area at approximately 03:30 leaving massive destruction to the infrastructure of the town.  Later, Israeli occupying forces returned to the area; Israeli bulldozers began to establish a path between Salah al-Din Street and ‘Abdul Hamid Street, 500m long and 15m wide, on areas of Palestinian agricultural land that had previously been razed by Israeli occupying forces.  At approximately 10:00, Israeli military bulldozers also began to raze large areas of Palestinian agricultural land in the east of Beit Hanoun near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip.  During this operation, 45 donums of Palestinian agricultural land were razed. 

 

§        At approximately 08:00 on Tuesday, 28 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including bulldozers, moved approximately 2km into Palestinian agricultural land located to the east of Jabalya.  Bulldozer razed approximately 350 donums of Palestinian agricultural land planted with olives, citrus, fruits and almonds.  PCHR's field worker in the northern Gaza Strip reported that this operation continued until Wednesday evening, 29 January 2003.  During the operation, Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinians who attempted to reach the area. 

 

§       At approximately 09:00 on Friday, 7 February 2003, 4 Israeli tanks and two military bulldozers moved approximately 1000m into the al-Qubtaniya area in the east of Beit Hanoun.  The operation continued untill 16:00, during which 72 donums of Palestinian agricultural land were razed.

 

§         At approximately 12:00 on Sunday, 16 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including a military bulldozer, moved into Palestinian agricultural areas located south of the "Elli Sinai" settlement.  They stayed until 16:30 and razed 42 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§       At approximately 10:00 on Monday, 17 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including two bulldozers, moved into Palestinian areas located south of the "Elli Sinai" settlement in the northern Gaza Strip.  They stayed until after 16:00.  During the operation Israeli bulldozers razed 76 donums of Palestinian agricultural land, demolished 3 buildings and destroyed 2 wells and 6 greenhouses.

  

Diagram of Palestinian agricultural land razed by Israeli occupying forces in the northern Gaza Strip

29 September 2000 – 31 March 2003

 

 

 

 

Gaza City

 The majority of land leveling operations in and around Gaza City took place west of a settler road between al-Mentar crossing and al-Shuhada’ junction, south of Gaza City, in the al-Mughraqa area and south of Sheikh ‘Ejlin neighborhood near the “Netzarim” settlement.  Over the period under study, Israeli occupying forces razed 268 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in these areas.  Following are cases of land leveling operations that occurred in these areas over the period under study as documented by PCHR: 

 

§   At approximately 10:00 on Wednesday, 10 July 2002, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with four tanks and two armored military bulldozers, moved approximately 300m into Palestinian agricultural land west of a settler road between al-Mentar crossing and al-Shuhada’ junction, south of Gaza City.  They razed 86 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 

§   At approximately 11:00 on Tuesday, 16 July 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 300m into Palestinian agricultural land west of a settler road linking the al-Maentar crossing and the al-Shuhada junction, south of Gaza City.  Until approximately 19:00 on the following day, Israeli occupying forces razed about 30 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§            At approximately 09:00 on Wednesday, 14 August 2002, Israeli occupying forces started razing areas of Palestinian agricultural land in Abu Tablein and al-Mansura areas along the road linking the al-Maentar crossing and the al-Shuhada junction, south of Gaza City.  They razed about 40 donums of agricultural land. 

 

§            At approximately 13:00 on Wednesday, 22 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 400m into al-Mughraqa village, south of Gaza city.  They razed 25 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 

§            At approximately 09:00 on Saturday, 22 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces, accompanied by two military bulldozers, moved approximately 200m west of a settler road linking al-Mentar crossing and al-Shuhada' junction, southeast of Gaza city.  They demolished some Palestinian civilian facilities and razed about15 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

Central Gaza Strip 

 

The majority of actions of land leveling in the central Gaza Strip took place in areas adjacent to “Kfar Darom” settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah, and in border areas east of al-Maghazi and al-Boreij refugee camps.  Over the period under study, Israeli occupying forces razed 701.5 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in these areas.   Following are cases of land leveling in the central Gaza Strip over the period under study as documented by PCHR: 

 

§        At approximately 23:00 on Saturday, 10 August 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved into Palestinian agricultural land, approximately 200m west of the “Kfar Darom” settlement, east of Deir al-Balah.  They razed 10 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§         At approximately 15:00 on Sunday, 8 September 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 700m into Palestinian agricultural land west of the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, east of al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, and razed 187 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§         At approximately 16:00 on Thursday, 19 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with three heavy military vehicles and a bulldozer, moved approximately 400m into Palestinian areas north of the "Kfar Darom" settlement in the east of Deir al-Balah.   An Israeli bulldozer was then used to  raze 19 donums of Palestinian agricultural land and destroy 8 greenhouses in which vegetables were being grown.

 

§        At approximately 14:00 on Saturday, 28 December 2002, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 600m into the al-Birka area in the southwest of Deir al-Balah.  An Israeli military bulldozer razed 10 donums of Palestinian agricultural land and demolished 5 rooms of water pumps. 

 

§      At approximately 14:00 on Wednesday, 1 January 2003, two Israeli tanks and a military bulldozer moved approximately 400m north of "Kfar Darom" settlement, east of Deir al-Balah.  They razed 20 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 

§      At approximately 09:30 on Friday, 3 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 200m into Palestinian areas north of the  "Kfar Darom" settlement in the southeast of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, and razed about 29 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§      At approximately 23:30 on Saturday, 18 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 250m into Palestinian areas located northwest of the "Kfar Darom" settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah.  Until 04:30 on the following day, Israeli military bulldozers razed 23 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in the area.

 

§     At approximately 23:30 on Thursday, 30 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with 13 heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 300m into Palestinian agricultural areas located north of the "Kfar Darom" settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah.  Until 04:20 on the following morning, Israeli military bulldozers razed 31 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§      At approximately 08:30 on Tuesday, 4 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with 5 heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 200m into Palestinian areas north of the "Kfar Darom" settlement in the southeast of Deir al-Balah.  Between 08:30 and 18:30, the  bulldozer was used to demolish 4 Palestinian houses and raze 26 donums of agricultural land.

 

§      At approximately 08:00 on Saturday, 8 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with two tanks and a bulldozer, moved approximately 1km into the al-Birka area in the south of Deir al-Balah.  They stayed until 19:00, during which they razed about 24 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§      At approximately 05:00 on Tuesday, 18 March 2003, an infantry unit of Israeli occupying forces moved approximately 300m into al-Hamra area in the southeast of Deir al-Balah.  Approximately an hour later, three Israeli heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, arrived in the area, and razed about 11 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

§      At approximately 13:30 on Friday, 21 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced by 6 heavy military vehicles, including two bulldozers, covered by intense gunfire, moved approximately 800m into Palestinian agricultural areas north of the "Kfar Darom" settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah.  They razed about 46 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 

Khan Yunis

 The majority of actions of land leveling in Khan Yunis took place at border areas located in the ‘Abasan and Bani Suhaila villages and in areas adjacent to the “Gush Qatif” settlement block.  Over the period under study, Israeli occupying forces razed 490 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in these areas.  Following are cases of land leveling in Khan Yunis over the period under study as documented by PCHR: 

 

§ At approximately 12:30 on Tuesday, 13 August 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 700m into Kuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis.  They opened fire at Palestinian houses and into areas of agricultural land, destroying a 32-square-meter agricultural store owned by Sa’adat Suleiman Rouk and damaging a school.  They also razed 40 donums of agricultural land.

 

§ At approximately 13:00 on Friday, 23 August 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 900m into ‘Abasan village, east of Khan Yunis. They razed 25 donums of Palestinian agricultural land, a greenhouse and large areas planted with wild figs. 

 

§ At approximately 14:00 on Saturday, 24 August 2002, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles and three armored bulldozers, and covered by indiscriminate shelling, moved approximately 900m into ‘Abasan and Khuza’a villages, east of Khan Yunis. In six hours, the Israeli bulldozers razed 69 donums of agricultural land and a large area planted with wild figs.

 

§ At approximately 11:00 on Monday, 9 September 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 600m into al-Fukhari village, adjacent to the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Yunis.  During nine hours, they razed more than 100 donums of Palestinian agricultural land, demolished two houses and destroyed agricultural equipment.

 

§ At approximately 15:00 on Friday, 4 October 2002, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 400m into Khuza'a village, east of Khan Yunis.  Immediately, two Israeli armored military bulldozers razed site 8 of the Palestinian National Security Force, a 250-square-meter, iron-roofed site.  They also razed more than 25 donums of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed some agricultural facilities. 

 

§ At approximately 10:30 on Saturday, 11 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 100m into the Abu Qarqoush area in the south of Khan Yunis.  Soon, an Israeli military bulldozer razed a 9 donum area of Palestinian agricultural land planted with olives, a greenhouse planted with potatoes, which stood on a 1-donum area, and destroyed an irrigation network owned by Faraj Khalil al-Masri.

 

§ At approximately 06:00 on Monday, 20 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 600m into the east of al-Qarara village, north of Khan Yunis.  This Israeli incursion continued until approximately 18:00, during which Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian civilians and razed 80 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 

§ At approximately 04:00 on Friday, 14 March 2003, an infantry unit of Israeli occupying forces moved approximately 200m into the Abu Haddaf area in al-Qarara village, north of Khan Yunis.  Israeli soldiers deployed on agricultural land and raided a number of houses.  During this incursion, which continued until 13:45, Israeli occupying forces razed 8 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.

 

Rafah

 The majority of actions of land leveling in Gaza took place in border areas, south and east of Rafah town.  Over the period under study, Israeli occupying forces razed 176.5 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.  Following are cases of land leveling in Rafah over the period under study as documented by PCHR: 

 

§ At approximately 15:30, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 800m into the 'Oraiba area northwest of Rafah.  They forced the 100 residents of the area out of their houses and gathered them near a barbwire fence surrounding the "Gush Qatif" settlement block, detaining them for 3 hours.  Meanwhile, Israeli forces partially demolished two Palestinian houses, razed 30 greenhouses planted with vegetables and destroyed irrigation networks.

 

§ At approximately 10:00 on Saturday, 15 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 300m into the al-Shouka area in the southeast of Rafah.  They razed 13 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 

§ At approximately 14:00 on Friday, 28 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including two bulldozers, and covered by intense gunfire, moved approximately 200m into the 'Orayba area in northwestern Rafah.  They called through loudspeakers on Palestinian farmers to leave their agricultural land.  The bulldozers remained in the area until Saturday evening, 29 March 2003, during which time they razed 20 donums of Palestinian agricultural land. 

 
 

Other Damages

 

Destruction of Palestinian land and houses has also resulted in damage to other types of civilian property and facilities.   

 Table (3): Damages accompanying land leveling in the Gaza Strip

1 July 2002 – 31 March 2003

 

Area

Iron-made stores

Agricultural stores

Bird farms

Animal farms

Beehives

Rafah

3

6

2

3

0

Khan Yunis

3

8

0

2

150

Central Gaza Strip

0

16

4

3

160

Gaza

0

3

1

1

0

Northern Gaza Strip

0

14

2

2

670

Total

6

47

9

11

980

 

 

House Demolition

 Israeli occupying forces have demolished hundreds of Palestinian houses, especially on agricultural land, in border areas and near Jewish settlements, in what appears to be an Israeli policy of annexing large areas of Palestinian land to create “buffer zones.”  According to PCHR’s documentation, over the period under study, Israeli occupying forces totally demolished 494 Palestinian houses and damaged hundreds of others, rendering 4499 people (approximately 643 families) homeless. 

 

 

Table (2)

 

Palestinian houses totally demolished by Israeli occupying forces

1 July 2002 – 31 March 2003

  

Area

Number of houses

Number of residents

Rafah

319

2945

Khan Yunis

48

575

Central Gaza Strip

37

328

Gaza

30

172

Northern Gaza Strip

60

479

Total

494

4499

 

In the majority of cases, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with a number of military vehicles, tanks and bulldozers, infiltrated Palestinian residential areas at night or early in the morning, imposed a curfew and then started demolishing houses. 

 Rafah has been the one of the areas in the OPTs most affected by the Israeli policy of house demolition.  From the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada until 31 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces demolished 572 Palestinian houses in Rafah, including 319 houses (56%) that were demolished over the period under study.  Israeli occupying forces have carried out most of these house demolitions along the Egyptian border, in an apparent attempt to create a buffer zone that would disrupt the geographical link between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, thus facilitating Israeli control of the border and Rafah Terminal.  Israeli forces have also created buffer zones around the “Gush Qatif” settlement block in order to seize control of the main roads in the area.  The following table shows the amount of houses demolished in Rafah every three months between 29 September 2000 and 31 March 2003:

 

 

Diagram of Palestinian houses demolished by Israeli occupying forces in Rafah

29 September 2000 – 31 March 2003

 

 

 The table and diagram show an escalation of house demolition in Rafah.  During the first quarter of 2003, Israeli occupying forces demolished 161 houses, the highest level of house demolition since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada. 

 Following are the most significant cases of house demolition carried out in the Gaza Strip by Israeli occupying forces during the period under study:

  

§      At approximately 01:00 on Friday, 2 August 2002, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 200m into al-Brazil neighborhood.  They called on Palestinians living in the area to evacuate their houses immediately, warning that heavy explosions would occur in the area which would endanger their lives.  Palestinians had to leave their homes very quickly and were not given time to evacuate many belongings.  At approximately 03:30, Israeli occupying forces planted bombs inside a 250-square-meter, two-story house, owned by Nazhmi al-Houli, in which 12 people lived, and set off the explosives, destroying the targeted house and damaging 7 neighboring houses.

 

§      At approximately 01:30 on Wednesday, 21 August 2002, Israeli occupying forces in military locations in the vicinity of the “Neve Dekalim” settlement, west of Khan Yunis, shelled Palestinian houses in the Khan Yunis refugee camp.  At the same time, two Israeli combat helicopters flew over the area.  Half an hour later, the helicopters opened fire at houses and into streets to provide cover for approximately eight Israeli heavy military vehicles and two bulldozers that were entering the refugee camp.  The military vehicles moved towards the refugee camp, opening fire indiscriminately.  In the meantime, Israeli forces called through loudspeakers on Palestinian civilians to leave their houses.  After the people left, the Israeli military bulldozers started leveling the area surrounding the refugee camp.  Israeli forces also destroyed the main electricity transmitter, cutting off electricity for the whole town.  At approximately 04:00, Israeli occupying forces raided the house of ‘Abdullah and Ibrahim Shureiqi Abu ‘Obeida, approximately 100m away from the aforementioned settlement.  Residents of the four-story house had already left it due to repeated Israeli shelling of the area.  Israeli forces planted bombs inside the house and destroyed it.  Four neighboring houses were completely destroyed and six others were partially destroyed.  During the destruction, 17-year-old Khaled Sa’id ‘Ayash was wounded by shrapnel from Israeli shelling.  After having destroyed the house, Israeli tanks resumed shelling of the area, damaging a number of houses inhabited by civilians.  A mosque, approximately 300m away from the aforementioned settlement, was also severely damaged.  Israeli military bulldozers also swept parts of the main road.  Before they withdrew from the area, at approximately 05:30, Israeli forces raided a house located approximately 100m away from the settlement.  They planted bombs in a six-story house, in which four families, comprised of 15 persons, lived, and then withdrew from the area without detonating the explosives.  After the withdrawal, Palestinian civilians gathered at the aforementioned home to check on what had happened.   Israeli forces then detonated the explosives by remote control.  The house and a number of neighboring houses were completely destroyed.  A wall of the house fell on a number of Palestinian civilians around the house, killing 26-year-old ‘Adnan Hussein Hassan Bureis.  In addition, five civilians, including two of Bureis’ brothers and his nephew, were wounded. 

 

§      On Tuesday morning, 3 September 2002, Israeli occupying forces moved into al-Salam neighborhood in Rafah and began demolishing a family without prior warning while residents were still inside.  Israeli forces then prevented neighbors from offering help to the wounded residents, who were eventually able to escape unaided from the demolished home. 

 

§      According to eyewitness testimonies, at approximately 05:00, nine tanks, armored personnel carriers and a bulldozer of the Israeli occupying forces moved approximately 200m into al-Salam neighborhood in Rafah, adjacent to the Palestinian-Egyptian border.  The Israeli bulldozer began demolishing Fayez ‘Ali Mohammed Abu Hussein’s house while its inhabitants were sleeping.  Although the owner screamed at the Israeli soldiers to stop the demolition, they did not stop.  He then called on neighbors to help him save his family.  Neighbors repeatedly attempted to help, but were prevented from doing so by Israeli forces that fired at anyone who attempted to evacuate the family.   An  hour later, a number of neighbors and relatives were able to reach the house and evacuate the family, and evacuate them to a hospital in an ambulance and a number of civilian cars.  Six members of the family sustained wounds. Another house, owned by Nidhal ‘Abdullah al-‘Emwasi, was also partially demolished in the incident.  

 

§    On Thursday, 2 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces destroyed 25 houses in the Rafah refugee camp, rendering more than 200 people homeless. According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 01:00, more than 30 heavy military vehicles, including tanks and armored bulldozers, moved about 200m into Block J in the Rafah Refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border, and began shelling the area intensely. At the same time, armored bulldozers demolished  houses in the area with the belongings of the residents still inside. 13 houses were totally demolished while 3 others were partially demolished, rendering 33 families, totaling181 people, homeless.  PCHR's field worker in Rafah reported that residents of the houses were surprised by the demolition, as they were given no prior warning, and were unable to evacuate their furniture and belongings.  Approximately 90 minutes later the armored vehicles moved east into Block L, which is also adjacent to the border with Egypt. Using megaphones, the soldiers called upon the residents to evacuate their houses.  Bulldozers then demolished 9 Palestinian houses, rendering 25 families, comprised of nearly 132 people, homeless. 

 

§      At approximately 03:00 on Friday, 3 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles and under the cover of intense shelling, moved approximately 200m into the al-Salam neighborhood, adjacent to the Egyptian border, south of Rafah.  They demolished 7 Palestinian houses totally and 4 others partially.  They also razed a 7-donum area of agricultural land planted with olives owned by Mahmoud Ahmed al-Sha'er and Sabri Fathi al-Sha'er.  

 

 

§      At approximately 00:00 on Wednesday, 8 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles and under the cover of intense shelling, moved approximately 70m into Block I in Khan Yunis refugee camp.  Within five hours Israeli military bulldozers demolished two Palestinian houses totally and four houses partially.  One of the houses was demolished while its residents were still inside.  A Palestinian civilian, Ayman Mohammed Ahmed Hunaideq, 30, was killed by two live bullets in the head and the left shoulder, while his brother, Nazhmi, 45, was wounded by four live bullets in the left arm and thigh, as Israeli forces opened heavy fire in the area while the demolition operations was occurring.  According to eyewitnesses, the former was shot dead while he was on a connecting road watching the Israeli incursion, while the latter was wounded trying to get to his house while it was being demolished in order to evacuate his family.

 

§      At approximately 01:00 on Thursday, 16 January, more than 15 Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 200m into Khaled Ben al-Walid Street near Salah al-Din Gate on the Egyptian border, south of Rafah.  During the incursion, which continued until 06:00, Israeli occupying forces totally demolished 4 Palestinian houses.  PCHR's fieldworker in Rafah reported that a number of Israeli soldiers with blackened faces and accompanied by dogs, raided 9 other houses.  They broke down doors, made holes in walls, searched them and held residents of each house in one room.  The electricity and telephone supplies of the area were also damaged. 

 

§      At approximately 08:30 on Thursday, 23 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, accompanied by military bulldozers, moved several meters into the al-Sayafa area in the north of Beit Lahia.  They forced the Palestinian population out of their homes and opened fire sporadically, claiming that they were searching for a Palestinian resistance man.  Approximately half an hour later, the Israeli military bulldozers demolished two houses and destroyed five tin-made houses. 

 

§      At approximately 22:00 on the same day, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with 8 heavy military vehicles and covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 200m into al-Brazil neighborhood in Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  Israeli soldiers raided a 300-square-meter, asbestos-roofed house, in which 6 families of 31 people lived.  They planted explosives in the house and destroyed it.  Four neighboring houses were totally destroyed and a fifth one was partially destroyed.  In addition, electricity and telephone supplies to the area were damaged and a fire broke out in a shop. Two Palestinian civilians were also wounded by the Israeli shelling. 

 

§      At approximately 09:00 on Friday, 24 January 2003, Israeli heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved, from the Erez crossing, in the northern Gaza Strip,  more than 3km into the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun Israeli forces, covered by intense shelling and supported by helicopters, blocked the main road leading to the townAt approximately 19:00, Israeli occupying forces planted explosives on the main bridge leading to the town and destroyed itBy 03:00 on Saturday, 25 January 2003, Israeli forces destroyed 3 more bridges, causing severe damage to dozens of adjacent Palestinian houses.

 

§      At approximately 16:30 on the same day, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles and covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 200m into Block O in Rafah refugee camp.  They demolished 14 Palestinian houses totally and 5 other houses partially.  

 

§      At approximately 23:00 on Tuesday, 28 January 2003, 8 Israeli heavy military vehicles, accompanied by military bulldozers and covered by sporadic shelling, moved approximately 200m into Block J in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  The Israeli incursion continued until the following  morning, during which a Israeli military bulldozer demolished 7 Palestinian houses. 

 

§      At approximately 02:30 on Thursday, 30 January 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles and under cover of intense shelling, moved approximately 1.5km into Tal al-Sultan neighborhood in the west of Rafah.  They totally demolished 2 houses and partially demolished 17 others.  Two wells used for public drinking water were also destroyed, causing a severe shortage of water supplies in the town.  Israeli forces also destroyed the building of al-Wihda sports club, two vehicles, a jeep, the garden of a housing project in the area, construction tools of a local company, and telephone and electricity supplies.  It is worth noting that 6 of the houses that were demolished were recently built by the Palestinian Ministry of Housing for people whose houses were previously demolished by Israeli forces in other areas of the town. 

 

§      At approximately 22:00 on the same day, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 200m into Block J in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border, and demolished 3 Palestinian houses.

 

§      At approximately 21:30 on Monday, 3 February 2003, Israeli heavy military vehicles, including bulldozers, moved approximately 200m into al-Salam neighborhood, adjacent to the Egyptian border south of Rafah, and were used to totally demolish 7 houses.

 

§      At approximately 00:00 on Saturday, 8 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including 3 bulldozers, and covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 100m into Khan Yunis refugee camp.  The bulldozers demolished 7 Palestinian houses totally and 3 others partially.  Palestinian civilians rushed into streets to escape their homes.  A Palestinian woman, Su'ad Mahmoud Hussein Hamed, 65, died from a heart attack during the escape. 

 

§      At approximately 14:00 on the same day, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, moved approximately 200m into al-Salam neighborhood adjacent to the Egyptian border, south of Rafah.  They demolished 3 Palestinian houses with the belongings of the residents still inside.

 

§      At the same time, 4 Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 200m into Block O in Rafah refugee camp.  An Israeli military bulldozer then demolished 3 Palestinian houses.

 

§      At approximately 11:15 on Sunday, 9 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces at the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Yunis, shelled Palestinian houses and farms in the al-Farahin area in the 'Abasan village.  An artillery shell exploded in the room of a 120-square-meter house owned by 'Abdullah Mahmoud Abu Daqqa. 

 

§      At approximately 18:00 on the same day, Israeli occupying forces moved approximately 200m into Block O in Rafah refugee camp.  They demolished 8 Palestinian houses.

 

§      At approximately 12:00 on Friday, 14 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with 3 tanks and a military bulldozer, moved approximately 100m into the al-Mughraqa area, south of Gaza City.  They demolished two Palestinian houses and razed areas of agricultural land.

 

§      At approximately 15:00 on the same day, 5 Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 200m into Block O in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  They opened fire at Palestinian houses, wounding three Palestinian civilians.  In the meanwhile, Israeli military bulldozers demolished 14 Palestinian houses in the area. 

 

§      At approximately 23:00 on Saturday, 15 February 2003, 4 Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 200m into Block O in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian borders.  Israeli military bulldozers demolished 4 Palestinian houses.

 

§      At approximately 14:00 on Saturday, 22 February 2003, Israeli heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 200m into Block J in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  The bulldozers demolished the Salah al-Din Mosque and 6 Palestinian houses.

 

§      On Sunday morning, 23 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with military bulldozers and helicopters, covered by intense shelling, invaded the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.  As a result of the military operation which continued until Monday morning, 24 February 2003, 7 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 3 children, were killed. In apparent acts of collective punishment, Israeli forces destroyed 5 houses in the area they claimed belonged to families of Palestinian activists who carried out attacks on Israeli targets.  During the incursion, Israeli soldiers seized a number of houses and used the residents as human shields.  In al-Amal neighborhood, known as al-Boura, in the east of Beit Hanoun, Israeli forces destroyed two houses owned by Yasser Zwaidi, allegedly wanted by the forces, and his son Ibrahim.

 

§      At approximately 01:00 on Monday, 24 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, and covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 70m into Khan Yunis refugee camp.  They raided the house of 'Adnan and Salem 'Ali Salem Abu 'Obaida, which had been severly damaged during a previous raid on 20 February 2003.  They then planted explosives in the  house and destroyed it.  Israeli forces also raided a 120-square-meter, 3-storey uninhabited house owned by 'Aadel 'Ali Salem Abu 'Obaida.  They planted explosives in the house and destroyed it.  A number of neighboring houses and electricity and telephone lines were damaged. 

 

§      At approximately 21:00 on the same day, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, and covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 100m into al-Sha'er neighborhood near Salah al-Din Gate adjacent to the Egyptian border, south of Rafah.  During the 7-hour incursion, Israeli forces demolished 4 houses totally, one house partially and two bird farms.

 

§      At approximately 21:00 on Wednesday, 26 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 150m into Imam 'Ali Street near Zo'rob square in the south of Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  During the incursion which continued until 23:00, Israeli forces demolished 9 Palestinian houses and an animal farm. 

 

§      At approximately 09:30 Friday, 28 February 2003, 6 Israeli heavy military vehicles, covered by intensive shelling, moved approximately 200m into al-Brazil neighborhood in the south of Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  They destroyed two Palestinian houses. 

 

§      At approximately 13:30 on the same day, 7 Israeli heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 200m into al-Salam neighborhood in the south of Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  They demolished 4 Palestinian houses.

 

§      At approximately 15:30 on the same day, 5 Israeli heavy military vehicles moved approximately 100m into Block J in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  They demolished two Palestinian houses.

 

§      According to PCHR's investigation and eyewitness reports, at approximately midnight, on Saturday night, 1 March 2003, around 30 Israeli heavy military vehicles, accompanied by military bulldozers, moved approximately 400m into Khan Younis refugee camp. At the same time a number of other Israeli forces moved into al-Nimsawi neighborhood in the west of Khan Younis.  Israeli heavy military vehicles and helicopters shelled the two areas intensely.  In Khan Younis refugee camp, Israeli forces surrounded a 7-storey apartment building, in which 7 families, totaling 54 people, lived. They called through loudspeakers on residents of the house to get out.  When the residents refused to leave, Israeli forces, accompanied by dogs, broke into the apartment complex.  They then used 15-year-old Rafiq Fa'eq Abu 'Aker as a human shield while searching the complex.  They also fired live bullets and sound bombs into the apartments while searching them.   Israeli forces then forced residents of the building to get out and took them approximately 200m away.  They also forced residents of neighboring houses out of their homes.  Israeli soldiers then planted explosives in the building and destroyed it, including some commercial stores located in the building that contained foodstuffs for approximately $10,000 U.S.  As a result of the blast, dozens of neighboring houses were totally or partially destroyed, and the eastern facade of a mosque was destroyed.  At the same time, in al-Nimsawi neighborhood, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved from "Neve Dekalim" settlement, west of Khan Yunis, towards Nasser Hospital in the north of the neighborhood.  They surrounded the hospital and military bulldozers demolished large parts of its fence.  Also in the same area, Israeli military bulldozers destroyed large parts of a fence surrounding an UNRWA preparatory school, and demolished 3 houses

 

§      At approximately 11:00 on Sunday, 2 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with 6 heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, and covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 200m into Block L in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  Two Palestinian civilians were wounded.  Israeli occupying forces demolished 8 Palestinian houses in the area.

 

§      At approximately 12:00 on the same day, 5 Israeli heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, covered by intense gunfire, moved approximately 150m into al-Salam neighborhood in the south of Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border.  They then demolished two Palestinian houses.

 

§      According to PCHR's investigation and eyewitness reports, at approximately 00:30, on Monday, 3 March 2003, around 60 Israeli heavy military vehicles, including military bulldozers, moved approximately 2-5km into al-Boreij refugee camp from three directions; from the eastern border, from "Kfar Darom" settlement in the south, and from "Netzarim" settlement in the north.  Before this incursion, Israeli undercover units dressed in civilian clothes deployed around targeted houses.  A number of Israeli military jeeps moved from "Netzarim" settlement, south of Gaza City, approximately 5km into al-Boreij refugee camp.  They surrounded the house of Mohammed Hassan Taha, 65, allegedly wanted by Israeli forces.  Israeli soldiers knocked down the door of his house and then opening fire inside.  The owner's son, Ayman, 35, was wounded by a live bullet in the right hand.  Then, Israeli soldiers arrested Taha and his three sons: 'Abdullah, 23; Ayman, 35; and 'Abdul Rahman, 19, and two other civilians in the area: Sami 'Abdullah Hamed, 33; and Ibrahim 'Abdul Raziq al-'Abeed, 22.  Soon, a number of Israeli heavy military vehicles arrived at the area and imposed a curfew.  Israeli soldiers forced the 10 residents of the 250-square-meter house, and the residents of the neighboring houses, out into the street and planted explosives in the house.  They then destroyed the house.  The eastern facade of the nearby al-Taqwa Mosque was destroyed by the blast.  At the same time, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved from "Kfar Darom" settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah, approximately 5km into the camp.  They surrounded the house of 'Aadel 'Abdullah 'Abdul Salam.  Israeli soldiers forced the 10 residents of the 100-square-meter, asbestos-roofed house out and then destroyed it with explosives.  As a result, 3 neighboring houses were destroyed.   At the same time, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved from the eastern border of the Gaza Strip approximately 2km into the camp.  They surrounded the house of Ramadan Hassan Abu Hassanein.  Israeli soldiers, accompanied by dogs, broke into the house.  One of the dogs being used by Israeli forces bit the owner's daughter, Islam, 12.  Israeli soldiers forced the 13 residents of the 220-square-meter, 2-storey house out into the street and destroyed it.  As a result, a neighboring 60-square-meter, tin-roofed house, in which two people lived, was destroyed.  In addition, a carpentry workshop owned by Khaled Abu Hwaishel was destroyed, and a number of neighboring houses were damaged.  When Israeli forces withdrew from the area, Ramadan Abu Hassanein's son, Hassan, 20, was found under the ruins of his house.  He was wounded by several live bullets in the feet and the left hand.  At approximately 03:00, Israeli occupying forces raided the house of Ahmed Suleiman al-Qurinawi and forced its residents out.  Then, they broke into a civilian car parked near the house and destroyed it.  The car was used by Riad Abu Zaid who was assassinated by Israeli forces on 17 February 2003.

 

§      At approximately 00:00 on Thursday 6 March 2003,  Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with dozens of heavy military vehicles and combat helicopters and covered by intense shelling, moved from the Beit Hanoun crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, approximately 4km to the south on Salah al-Din Street, towards the edges of Jabalya.  Then, they moved approximately 1km into al-Quds Street inside the town.  On their way, Israeli heavy military vehicles destroyed a number of Palestinian shops, stores and civilian facilities and demolished walls of 3 houses of the families of Sha'ban, Mansour and 'Eid.  Then, they moved northward towards Jablaya refugee camp.  They surrounded the 250-square-meter, 3-storey house of 'Abdul Karim Mahmoud Ziada, the father of Suhail Ziada who carried out an armed attack against Israeli forces east of Jablaya last year.  They forced its 12 residents and 9 residents of a neighboring 200-square-meter house out and into the street.  They handcuffed the men of the second house and held all other residents of the two houses in one room. Then, they searched the two houses and planted explosives inside.  At approximately 03:30, they destroyed the two houses and arrested 'Abdul Karim Ziada and Mohammed and Hassan 'Abdul Rahman Khalil.  As the incursion began, Israeli combat helicopters launched 6 missiles at the road linking Jabalya and its refugee camp.  A missile fell near the house of Mohammed Shihda al-Bayari, 54.  Al-Bayari was killed by shrapnel throughout the body, and 5 other Palestinian civilians were injured.  Another missile hit the house of a 170-square-meter, 2-storey house, destroying its first floor. The other missiles hit streets, injuring a number of Palestinian civilians.  During the incursion, Israeli heavy military vehicles and combat helicopters opened fire at Palestinian houses and a number of civilian facilities, severely damaging dozens of these structures.  According to eyewitnesses, Israeli forces willfully shot dead Muhsen 'Awadh Abu 'Ouda, 30, a Palestinian policeman, with a live bullet in the head, while he was on his way back home. 'Ouda bled to death.  At approximately 05:30, Israeli occupying forces fired several artillery shells at a 450-square-meter, 4-storey house, in which 6 families counting 21 people live, owned by Ahmed Mohammed Faraj Saleh.  The shells hit stores located under the house, burning them.  Firemen were not able to reach the house until 06:45.  During the incursion approximately 12 Palestinian houses were damaged by the Israeli shelling and gunfire.

 

§      At approximately 21:20 on the same day, about 27 Israeli heavy military vehicles moved from "Nissanit" settlement.  Approximately an hour later, these vehicles moved into Beit Hanoun Street, between Salah al-Din Street and the al-'Awda apartment buildings, and took position on a hill near the directorate of education of the northern Gaza Strip.  Israeli forces remained in the area until Monday, 10 March 2003, during which Israeli forces fired at Palestinian civilians, wounding more than 40, mostly children, and severely damaging a number of Palestinian houses.  Israeli forces also destroyed a number of civilian facilities including sewage facilities and electricity and water supplies. 

 

§      At approximately 08:00 on Tuesday, 11 March 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles, including 3 bulldozers, moved approximately 200m into al-Mughraqa village, south of Gaza city.  The bulldozers demolished 5 empty Palestinian houses, whose residents had evacuated at the beginning of the Intifada due to Israeli shelling, and razed areas of agricultural land.

 

§      At approximately 11:00 on the same day, an Israeli tank positioned in the vicinity of "Neve Dekalim" settlement, west of Khan Yunis, fired 3 shells at al-Nimsawi neighborhood to the east.  The shells hit an apartment building and caused sever damaged to 3 flats.  Israeli forces then opened fire at the area without provocation.

 

§      At approximately 15:00 on the same day, 5 Israeli heavy military vehicles, including a bulldozer, moved approximately 200m into al-Salam neighborhood in the south of Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border, and demolished 3 Palestinian houses. 

 


 

Conclusion

 

Such ongoing widespread and systematic destruction to Palestinian agricultural land and homes has contributed to a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis that has been further exacerbated by the ongoing Israeli military policy of closure.  These policies also constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.   Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces have razed 15,323 donums of land, mostly agricultural land, and destroyed hundreds of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.  These two policies have been focused mostly in areas near Israeli military bases, settlements and bypass roads.  They have been used to effectively bring large areas of Palestinian land under direct control of the Israeli occupying forces and settlements whilst denying access for Palestinians.  Thus, the ongoing implementation of these policies has effectively expanded Israeli territory in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR strongly condemns the Israeli military policies of house demolition and land leveling as grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely war crimes. PCHR reiterates its call on the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to take immediate concrete measures to enforce Israel’s respect for the Convention in accordance Article 1 of the Convention.  PCHR also reminds the High Contracting Parties of the Convention of their obligation under article 146 to search for and to prosecute those who have committed or who have ordered to be committed, grave breaches of the Convention.

 


 


[1] PCHR published 8 previous reports on Israeli Land Sweeping and Demolition of Palestinian Buildings and Facilities in the Gaza Strip that covered the period 29 September 2000 – 31 June 2002.  For further information, see PCHR’s webpage: www.pchrgaza.org.

[2] 1 donum equals 1000 square meters.

[3] This number does not include 23 houses belonging to families of Palestinians who carried out or facilitated armed attacks against Israeli targets, which were demolished by Israeli occupying forces over the period under study.