Early this morning, 400 Palestinian families were forced by the Israeli occupation forces to evacuate their homes in Rafah during an Israeli military incursion into the area. A total of 25 civilian homes located on the border area with Egypt were destroyed.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at around 2:30am on Tuesday 20 January 2004, Israeli occupation forces, including tanks and heavy military bulldozers, entered 400 meters inside the Al-sha’er and Qishta quarters in Salah El-Din Gate area of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. After subjecting the Palestinian residences in the area to heavy machine gun-fire, Israeli military bulldozers began demolishing civilian homes in the area, without allowing the residents an opportunity to remove their belongings. This operation continued until 11am. 15 homes were completely destroyed and a further ten were severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.
In a separate incident on Monday, 19th of January, 2004, Israeli occupying forces issued written orders to 10 Palestinian families in Deir el-Balah ordering the confiscation of their land and homes located northeast of “Kfar Darom” settlement. According to the owners of these properties, Israeli soldiers informed them orally when they were handed the orders that the land will be used to establish additional Israeli security facilities. The total area subject to these confiscation orders is approximately 700 donums. The orders permit 7 days for appeal. PCHR is preparing to submit an appeal against these orders to the Israeli military legal advisor.
PCHR strongly condemns this morning’s destruction of civilian homes and property in the Rafah refugee camp and further condemns the land confiscation orders issued against land owners in Deir el-Balah. Extensive destruction and appropriation of civilian property not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly and unlawfully constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as defined in article 147.
PCHR calls for an immediate halt to the destruction and appropriation of civilian property and all other violations of the Convention. PCHR further calls for effective reparation, including compensation, for victims of such violations. PCHR reminds the international community, specifically the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, of their obligations to ensure respect for the Convention and the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.