This morning, in the latest attack against Palestinian civilians and property, Israeli occupying forces destroyed 22 houses in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Contrary to Israeli claims that the houses were uninhabited, preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR revealed that the Israeli military operation left 178 Palestinian civilians (25 families) homeless. In addition, homes belonging to 6 families (approximately 40 civilians) have become uninhabitable.
According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 00:30 on Monday, 15 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced by heavy military vehicles and helicopters and covered by intense shelling, moved into Khan Yunis refugee camp. During the operation, Israeli forces totally demolished 18 houses and 4 others partially, leaving 178 civilians (25 families) homeless.
According to eyewitnesses, the inhabitants of the houses destroyed or damaged in last night’s attack left their houses when they heard the Israeli military vehicles approaching the area. During the operation, a number of houses were partially damaged by the shelling and Israeli forces destroyed a Palestinian National Security Force post and severely damaged the civilian infrastructure in the camp. PCHR’s field worker in Khan Yunis reported that 9 of the houses had previously been vacated by the inhabitants following repeated damage and shelling by Israeli forces. However, the houses were routinely checked by their owners.
PCHR strongly condemns the ongoing military attacks against Palestinian civilians and property perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces in the OPTs. The extensive destruction to civilian property carried out wantonly and unlawfully without military necessity, constitutes grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR reiterates that the policies of retaliation and collective punishment practiced by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians also constitute violations of international humanitarian law, specifically article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to halt all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the OPTs. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to take concrete measures to halt Israeli war crimes in the OPTs. PCHR calls upon humanitarian organizations to provide urgent assistance to the victims of Israeli military actions carried out against Palestinian civilians and property.