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Occupied Lives: I will build my house again

Hassan Al Najjar in his rented house in
Abbassan village.

3 years ago, on 11 January 2009, Hassan Al Najjar’s (62) house in
Khuza’a village was destroyed by Israeli forces.  This happened during the Israeli offensive
against Gaza,
codenamed ‘Cast Lead,’ a 22 day military assault on the Gaza Strip that
resulted in a massive amount of destruction and fear: “I cannot even begin to
explain how this affected me.  I am in
total shock.  I had put great effort into
building that house.  14 years of hard
work, and in 5 minutes it was all on the ground.”

Hassan’s house is located approximately 500 meters from the
Israeli border.  This is near the buffer
zone, a military no-go area that was proclaimed by Israel
to exist between Israel and
the Gaza Strip, which extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter
of the Gaza Strip adjacent to Israel,
but inside Palestinian territory.  In
2009, Israel announced that
the buffer zone would extend 300
into Gaza,
although in reality it can extend as far as 1,500 meters.  The buffer zone is often enforced using live
fire, which results in the loss of Palestinian lives, land and property. 

After Operation Cast Lead, Hassan, his 2 wives and their 12 children moved
to a rented house in Abassan village, east of Khan Yunis, and gradually began rebuilding
their lives.  2 months ago, they started
reconstructing their destroyed home.  However,
just 2 weeks ago, on 14 June 2012, at around 2:30pm, the house was bulldozed
again by Israeli forces: “Our two story house was in the final stages of
reconstruction.  In fact, there were
workers in the house when Israeli forces began approaching the village.  The workers saw the bulldozers coming and ran.”

No prior warning was given by Israeli forces of the impending attack on
Hassan’s house: “They had warned the ICRC that they would destroy a school-
Shuhada Khuza’a- nearby, but they extended this destruction to my house.”  No explanation has been provided as to why only
Hassan’s house was attacked on 14 June 2012.

Hassan is not the only Palestinian who has had their home destroyed near
the buffer zone: “There are people whose houses were taken down before.  It was like a nightmare watching it happen to
other people, but the real nightmare began when they destroyed my own house.”


Hassan’s destroyed house in Khuza’a.

This attack has had anegative effect on Hassan and his family: “I have
to rent two separate houses for my 2 wives and the children.  It is not like before, where we could all live
together in one big house.  The family
has been split up.”  This has resulted in
an even heavier financial burden for the family.  

Moreover, nothing could be salvaged from Hassan’s house.  The cost of the loss of his property is
estimated to be USD 45,000: “I will not be able to re-use any of the
construction material and I will also have to pay a lot of money to have the
debris removed when I start building again.  Luckily, the house was empty though, so I do
not have to replace furniture or personal items again.  I am lucky though that I can rebuild, when
the time comes.”

The destruction of Hassan’s house also sheds light on the reality that,
owing to the closure, building materials remain unavailable or too expensive in
the Gaza Strip: “It was not easy to reconstruct the house.  It was very hard to find the building
material.  The cement available in the
market is also of very poor quality.  I
really had struggled to find the material to rebuild my house.”  This home, which he struggled to reconstruct,
was easily destroyed by Israeli forces.

Hassan still maintains that, irrespective of the risks involved, he will
try to reconstruct the house yet again: “It is my land. I will keep rebuilding,
even if I do it 1000 times.  Nobody can
explain my suffering regardless of the number of words that are said or
written.  I just need to gather my
strength for now, but I will build my house again.  In spite of everything that is happening now,
I am confident that I will be living under one roof with my family again

The direct targeting
of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2) (b)
(ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Similarly, under the Fourth Geneva Convention
Article 53, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered
absolutely necessary by military operations. 
The subsequent enforcement against private property in the buffer zone
results in the violation of numerous human rights provisions, including the right
to adequate shelter contained in Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

To see a video narrative given by Hassan Al Najjar  please  click here


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