Israeli forces destroy three apartment buildings in al-Zahra

Three Palestinian 13-stores apartment buildings are blown up by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip town of al-Zahrah, October 26, 2003 (Photo: Stringer/Israel/Reuters, 2003)

In an attempt to prevent the demolition of the three buildings, at approximately 23:50 on Saturday, 25 October 2003, PCHR submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court.  As they have numerous times in the past, the Israeli prosecution claimed that the three buildings were to be demolished on grounds of security necessities.

At approximately 02:00 on Sunday, 26 October 2003, the Israeli High Court rejected PCHR’s petition, permitting the demolition of the three buildings and at approximately 02:20, Israeli occupying forces demolished the three buildings. PCHR is concerned that the rejection of the petition against illegal Israeli military actions is simply the latest in an ongoing policy of blanket acceptance of “security” as a justification for unlawful measures taken by the Israeli military.  This pattern serves to raise concerns regarding the independence of the Israeli High Court.

Earlier in the evening on Saturday 25 October 2003, Israeli occupying forces fired approximately 15 tank shells at the three buildings.  Israeli military vehicles then moved from “Netzarim” settlement, south of Gaza City, into al-Zahra town, taking control of the area. Israeli soldiers planted explosives inside a Palestinian police station and destroyed it.  Soon after, Israeli soldiers ordered residents of the area to vacate their houses and go to the nearby Nusseirat refugee camp. Once the evacuation of the area was complete, Israeli soldiers planted explosives inside the three buildings and destroyed them. 

According to information available to PCHR, the three buildings were owned by al-Zhafer Contracting Company.  They were in the final stages of construction.  Each building was composed of 12 floors, each of which had 4 apartments; the total number of apartments that were destroyed is 144.  A number of neighboring houses and buildings were also damaged in the explosion. 

PCHR is gravely concerned about the ongoing violations of human rights perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians and property. PCHR reiterates its calls to the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene to ensure protection for Palestinian civilians and civilian property.