|The tenth Report on Israeli Land Sweeping and Demolition of Palestinian Buildings and Facilities in the Gaza Strip 1 April, 2003 – 30 April,2004|
|Saturday, 01 May 2004 00:00|
Uprooting Palestinian Trees
And Leveling Agricultural Land
1 April, 2003 – 30 April,2004
This is the tenth 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 on 29 September 2000, Israeli occupying forces have systematically razed areas of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed houses and civilian facilities throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
According to PCHR’s documentation, over the period under study, 1 April 2003 – 30 April 2004, Israeli occupying forces razed 6424 donums of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed dozens of irrigation networks, water pumps, beehives, animal and bird farms, agricultural stores, fences of farms and tin-made houses in the Gaza Strip. Also during this reporting period, Israeli occupying forces totally demolished 803 Palestinian houses and damaged hundreds of others in the Gaza Strip, rendering nearly 6554 Palestinian civilians (about 950 families) homeless. These houses were demolished without any prior warning and without allowing the families to vacate any of their belongings.
From the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada until 30 April 2004, Israeli occupying forces razed a total of 22892 donums of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip. This constitutes approximately 14.6% of the total area of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip. In the same period, Israeli occupying forces demolished 1867 houses completely, rendering 16497 Palestinian civilians (2371 families) homeless.
The Rafah town and refugee camp, located in the south of the Gaza Strip adjacent to the border with Egypt, have been the focus of the Israeli military house demolition policy in the OPT. From the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada until 30 April 2004, Israeli occupying forces demolished 1059 Palestinian houses in Rafah. 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 487 houses in Rafah, approximately 46% of the total number of houses demolished in the town since the beginning of the current Intifada. Most of these demolitions were conducted in areas of Rafah which are located along the border with Egypt, in the west of Rafah and near "Morag" settlement, north of the town.
On Sunday morning, 26 October 2004, Israeli occupying forces destroyed 3 apartment buildings that contained 156 flats in al-Zahra town, opposite to "Netzarim" settlement south of Gaza City. Israeli occupying forces planted explosives inside these buildings and destroyed them, which marked a significant escalation in acts of house demolitions conducted by Israeli occupying forces in the OPT since the beginning of the current Intifada.
The northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun has been the focus of the Israeli military land leveling policy in the OPT. Israeli occupying forces imposed a tightened siege on the town from 15 May to 30 June 2003, during which they demolished dozens of housed, razed large areas of agricultural land and largely destroyed the civilian infrastructure of the town.
The ongoing Israeli military policy of land-leveling and confiscation has resulted in a major reduction in agricultural production throughout the OPT. 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 the availability of production for the domestic market, but it has also impacted on the wider economic development of the OPT.
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. They have also destroyed many animal and bird farms and beehives. Israeli occupying forces have stolen sands from the agricultural land that was razed and transported them to Israel, which may contribute to the desertification of the Gaza Strip.
PCHR contends that destruction of Palestinian agricultural resources, 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 OPT. 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. Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilian property can be interpreted only in terms of collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population. They constitute illegal actions whose perpetrators must be prosecuted. The Israeli military focus on the Palestinian agricultural sector apparently aims at the destruction of this sector, which is the cornerstone of the Palestinian economy.
The full report is available in PDF format.
 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 March 2003. For further information, see PCHR’s webpage: www.pchrgaza.org.
 1 donum is equal to 1000 square meters.
 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.