European Commission provides EUR 1 million for victims of house demolitions

Israeli military watchtower overlooking destruction in Rafah refugee camp (Photo: UCP, 2003)

The European Commission has adopted an emergency decision for €1 million for victims of house demolitions in the Gaza Strip. 13,000 people who have lost their homes in recent months will be provided with emergency shelter and relief items, and with means for securing alternative accommodation. The funds, channelled through the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), are directed to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), one of the main organisations providing assistance to victims of the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian Territories.

Commenting on the decision, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, said: “The demolitions are disproportionate acts that contravene international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.” He added: “We urge the Israeli military authorities to refrain from practices that aggravate the humanitarian and economic plight of the Palestinians.”

Families made homeless will receive cash contributions to pay for alternative accommodation until permanent re-housing is made available. They will also be provided with relief items such as tents, blankets, mattresses and kitchen and hygiene kits. The decision will benefit around 13,000 people.

Among the beneficiaries will be almost 1,000 people whose homes were demolished by the Israeli army in January in the town and refugee camp of Rafah. The recent demolitions have added to the severe humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, and particularly in the Rafah area.

Since October 2000, almost 15,000 people had their houses demolished by Israeli military bulldozers in the Gaza Strip, of whom more than 10,000 live in Rafah. The demolitions have hit both refugees registered with UNRWA and non-refugee Palestinians.

The Commission’s humanitarian support for victims of the Middle East crisis has risen since the start of the second Intifada, from €15 million in 2000 to €38 million in 2003. ECHO’s assistance to the Palestinians since September 2000 now amounts to €119 million, of which more than €49 million has been channelled through UNRWA. Almost €100 million has been allocated to projects in the West Bank and Gaza with around €20 million for Palestinian refugee populations in neighbouring countries.

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