Last night, Israeli occupying forces (IOF) demolished 25 houses in Rafah refugee camp, leaving more than 350 homeless and injuring two Palestinians.
According to PCHR’s preliminary investigations, at approximately 23:00 on Saturday, 29 May 2004, IOF heavy military vehicles, reinforced by helicopters, moved approximately 300 meters into Block J in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border. Under cover of intense shelling, IOF began to demolish a number of Palestinian houses, without allowing residents to retrieve their possessions. By 05:00 on Sunday, 30 May 2004, Israeli troops had demolished 23 houses completely and 2 others partially. As a result, 352 people (60 families) have been rendered homeless. During the IOF action, a 60-year-old woman and a doctor were injured. The doctor was injured when he tried to offer medical help to residents in the area.
In the past two weeks, Israeli troops destroyed 360 houses in Rafah town and refugee camp, killed 57 Palestinians and injured at least 200 others, during a series of military incursions. As a result of increased IOF actions in Rafah, at least 5000 Palestinians have become homeless in the short or long term. Temporary shelters set up in the area have become overcrowded.
The extensive destruction of civilian property, carried out wantonly and unlawfully, and without military necessity constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention (article 147) and a war crime as defined in article 85.5 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.
PCHR is extremely concerned at the recent escalation in violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including grave breaches, perpetrated by IOF in the OPTs. Rafah has been particularly targeted by the IOF in the last month. PCHR reiterates its calls to the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal obligations to ensure respect for the Convention in the OPTs, and the protection of the civilian population.