According to information available to PCHR, on 22 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces handed written orders to a number of Palestinian families living near “Netzarim” settlement, south of Gaza city, informing them that their land would be seized for “military purposes” until the end of December 2005. Such orders mean that the land will be effectively confiscated. The orders provide seven days for appeal. PCHR today submitted an appeal on behalf of the owners of these lands to the Israeli military legal advisor.
According to the orders which were issued by the Head of the Israeli Military Southern Command, Dan Harel, “the seizure of land is carried out in light of the current security situation and for absolute military needs (security wall – Netzarim, Gaza) to establish security facilities.”
The area of land subject to these orders is estimated at 27 dunums. However, the construction of a “security wall” around the Netzarim settlement is likely to involve seizure of additional Palestinian land and/or denial of access to other Palestinian land in this area. The maps annexed to the military orders show that the wall will encircle the southern part of “Netzarim” settlement; expanding an existing buffer zone around the settlement. The construction of the wall is expected to isolate hundreds of dunums of Palestinian land, which will be trapped between the settlement and the new security wall.
PCHR remains concerned that these latest seizure orders near “Netzarim” settlement are part of a broader plan to expand direct Israeli territorial control in many areas of the Gaza Strip. There has been a clear increase in the use of land seizure orders in the Gaza Strip in 2004. On 19 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces issued written orders to 10 Palestinian families in Deir el-Balah ordering the confiscation of land located northeast of “Kfar Darom” settlement. The total area affected is approximately 700 dunums. On 6 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces handed land seizure orders to 7 Palestinian families who own agricultural land to the west of “Kfar Darom” settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah, informing them that their land would be confiscated for security and military purposes. The area of this land is estimated at 200 dunums.
PCHR is currently appealing the military orders in both these instances. In the first case, PCHR’s first appeal to the Israeli military legal advisor was rejected. PCHR subsequently submitted an appeal to the Israeli High Court. The High Court will reconvene on 26 February 2004. The court has thus far refused to issue an interim injunction to halt the seizure orders. With regard to the second case, PCHR submitted an appeal on behalf of the seven families to the Israeli military legal advisor. No response has yet been received.
International humanitarian law prohibits the destruction or confiscation of private property unless absolutely necessary for military purposes. Specifically, the extensive destruction or appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly or unlawfully constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Convention to intervene to halt such appropriations and other grave breaches of the Convention by the Israeli occupation authorities.