In a dry-run for the disengagement plan Israeli forces moved into the al Mawasi area of the Gaza Strip and demolished 11 Palestinian buildings. Israeli settlers destroyed near-by farm-land and closed down a local health clinic. They established a new settlement called Tam Yam.
Early in the morning of Sunday the 26th of June 2005 a number of Israeli settlers moved into two buildings, which belonged to Khan Yunis municipality, close to a small pier for Palestinian fishermen in the Khan Yunis part of al Mawasi.
In the recent past settlers have been locating themselves in these buildings at certain times before again evacuating the buildings. They have recently placed barbed wire around two rest-houses which formed part of a series of tourist cabins in the local area.
The cabins are one storey buildings with concrete ceilings on an area of about 80-100 square metres owned by Khan Yunis municipality. Before the Intifada the municipality hired them to Palestinian citizens to be used as restaurants and chalets. However they have since been obliged to close them down due to the closure and siege imposed on the al Mawasi area by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).
Around 1330 on Sunday the 26th the IOF, with military jeeps and a number of heavily armoured bulldozers blocked the main coastal road inside al Mawasi area and started to bulldoze the cabins. Simultaneously hundreds of settlers (who came from an outpost they have established in the abandoned Palm Beach Hotel) gathered at the location. They began to interfere with the work of the occupation forces to try and prevent the demolition of the cabins - claiming that they had possessions inside. Beside the fact that the buildings are owned by Khan Yunis municipality they also are outside of the actual boundary of the settlement bloc.
The dispute between the settlers and the army lasted until 1730 that evening. The IOF destroyed eight cabins leaving only one structure remaining next door to the medical clinic.
According to broadcasts on Israeli radio an army spokesperson claimed that the operation was aimed to prevent the right-wing extremists and the Gush Katif settlers from taking control of the buildings to oppose the implementation of the disengagement plan.
In the midst of the chaotic scenes prompted by the demolitions the settlers took the opportunity to attack a Palestinian ambulance which belongs to the Ministry of Health. They also destroyed an irrigation network and damaged two pieces of cultivated land consisting of about 12 donums.(1) This land is owned by Palestinian civilians. The first piece of land, which consisted of 10 donums cultivated with potatoes, was owned by Mota’sin Said al Najar. The second plot, consisting of 2 donums, was owned by Mohammad Yahya al Farra.
Closures and Curfews
During the destruction of this land a curfew was imposed on the Palestinian civilian population. The main street and side roads of the area were cordoned off preventing civilians from moving around. Palestinian civilians inside al Mawasi hid in their homes out of fear that they would be attacked by settlers, as has happened on a large number of previous occasions.
Around 0000 hrs on Monday the 27th of June, dozens of settlers burst into an uninhabited three storey building owned by Mansour Hussein al Bayouq which is located opposite the buildings which were destroyed. The settlers occupied the building and placed two tents at the sides of the buildings.
Due to the location of the settlers in the area the medical team from the nearby medical clinic have not been able to open the clinic for two days. This meant that many people are being denied access to the basic, but necessary, medical services provided. The ongoing presence of the settlers, without any attempts from the IOF to remove them, indicates that other attacks on Palestinian civilians, and their property, are likely.
At 0900 GMT fresh reports indicated that the settlers were expanding this area and transforming it into a new outpost for the settlement called Tal Yam.
Settlements and settlers are illegal under international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, the primary document governing the OPT, stipulates in Article 49 that the transfer of the population of the occupying power into the occupied territory is in breach of international law. The International Court of Justice confirmed in its 2004 judgment that settlements and settlement activity is illegal.