This morning, Israeli occupying forces demolished 16 houses in block L of the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces moved into the camp, and began the demolition operation under cover of Israeli gun and tank fire. The demolitions left 160 Palestinian civilians, the majority children, homeless. These latest homeless are added to the thousands of other Palestinian civilians made homeless in similar Israeli military operations throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).
This area of Rafah has witnessed the largest number of such house demolitions in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli occupying forces have demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes in Rafah since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada; in most cases the justification given was “security”. In reality, the facts on the ground indicate that these demolitions represent a strategic policy to clear a large area of Palestinian land near the border with Egypt to facilitate a wide buffer zone that increases Israeli military control in the area. In particular, Israeli forces have begun construction of a concrete and metal wall parallel to the border with Egypt on land cleared of Palestinian homes in similar demolition operations.
According to PCHR’s preliminary investigations, at approximately 01:00 this morning, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced by heavy military vehicles, including four bulldozers, and under cover of intense shelling, moved into Block L in Yibna refugee camp in Rafah. Immediately, the Israeli military bulldozers began to demolish Palestinian houses without giving residents the opportunity to evacuate belongings. At the end of the operation, 10 Palestinian houses had been totally demolished, and 6 others had been partially destroyed. 35 Palestinian families have been left homeless.
PCHR remains deeply concerned about the ongoing perpetration of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes, by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian civilian population in the OPTs. PCHR has consistently reiterated its concerns regarding the Israeli military policy of demolition of Palestinian civilian property, including homes, educational and health facilities, commercial properties, and civilian infrastructure. The extensive destruction of civilian property, carried out wantonly and unlawfully without military necessity, constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely a war crime. PCHR reasserts that the ongoing failure of the international community, specifically the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to intervene to ensure protection for the Palestinian civilian population has served to encourage further violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Thus, PCHR calls upon the international community to take immediate concrete steps to ensure the protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the OPTs.