Najat al-Louh, 32 outside
the remains of her home. Her sick 2 year old daughter
lies on the sand behind her. © Christian Aid / Sarah
When the family
returned to their home after Israel’s unilateral
ceasefire they discovered it had been shelled twice and
all their animals killed. 250 metres away, and visible
through a hole in the side of the house, is the toppled
minaret of the local mosque, which took a direct hit. An
airstrike also hit Beit Lahiya’s large Ibrahim Al
Maqadmah mosque on the 2 January 2009, killing 16 people
and injuring dozens more. A total of 2,400 homes were
completely destroyed during the three week offensive and
over 12,000 were partially damaged.
organizations have established a number of tent camps
around the Gaza Strip. But in search of adequate shelter
from the elements, some displaced and homeless people
have moved in with extended family members in other
areas. This is further squeezing Gaza’s urban centres
and placing an extra burden on already densely populated
areas. It also means the scale of the problem of
internally displaced people in Gaza is less visibly
On what was the
second floor of the house, Najat’s sister-in-law Faiza,
44 picks through the remains of their children’s
clothes. “Sometimes I wish we’d died rather than this…”
she says. “There were no militants near our house. Is
this not haram [forbidden]? Destroying homes,
bombing mosques, killing chickens. Is that not haram?”
Maysa has been too
upset to study since the end of the offensive. “She had
99 per cent in English, but all her school reports and
prizes are under that sand,” says her mother Najat.
“What will happen to her future?” She shows me her
bedroom now consumed by a mound of earth, and the edge
of her bed that pokes out of the sand. “I had a few
savings under my mattress,” she says. Who knows if I’ll
ever find them.”
law and the destruction of civilian property
Lead, Israel’s 22 day offensive on the Gaza Strip
between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 had a
devastating impact on Gaza’s physical infrastructure.
list of damage to civilian property includes:
destroyed, and at least 12,000 homes damaged.
stations and 30 mosques completely destroyed.
enterprises, including cafeterias, wedding halls and
civilian facilities, including ministry buildings,
municipalities and fishing
industrial/commercial workshops destroyed and at least
factories and one juice factory destroyed.
5 media and 2
health institutions destroyed.
educational facilities including schools damaged or
of agricultural land razed to the ground.
Israel’s destruction of property and land belonging to
Palestinians has been a feature of its occupation since
1967 and is in clear violation of international law. It
has also contributed to the steadily deteriorating
humanitarian situation in the occupied territories.
withdrawal of its forces and settlers from the Gaza
Strip in 2005, Israel remains in control of Gaza’s seas,
external borders, and airspace. The Gaza Strip is
defined as occupied territory in accordance with
international law. Consequently, as the Occupying Power,
Israel remains bound by international humanitarian law.
The targeting of civilian property violates the most
basic tenets of humanitarian law, and is explicitly
prohibited by both customary international humanitarian
law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
Article 53 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the targeting of
civilian property, except where such destruction is
rendered ‘absolutely necessary by military operations’.
As the Occupying Power, Israel has specific
legally-binding obligations towards the civilian
population of the Gaza Strip. If the destruction of
property is found to be disproportionate to the direct
military advantage gained, this would constitute a grave
breach of the Geneva Conventions.
nature of Israel’s destruction of Palestinian civilian
property and its use of heavy artillery, tanks and
fighter jets against heavily populated residential areas
has resulted in a disproportionately high number of
civilian deaths and injuries, as well as extensive
damage to civilian objects. The attacks are therefore
illegal; they violate the principles of distinction and
proportionality, and as such constitute grave breaches
of the Geneva Conventions.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is calling upon
the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions
to fulfill their obligations under Article 1 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention to prevent such crimes,
as well as their legally-binding
obligation in accordance with Article 146 to bring
persons alleged of committing grave breaches of the
Geneva Conventions to justice.