On Saturday morning, 25 September 2004, Israeli occupying troops launched a wide scale offensive on Khan Yunis refugee camp, using helicopter gunships, tanks and military bulldozers. They destroyed 54 Palestinian houses, rendering 414 people (66 families) homeless. They also killed one Palestinian civilian and injured 5 others.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 00:30 on Saturday, 25 September 2004, Israeli occupying troops, reinforced by heavy military vehicles, including 6 bulldozers, and helicopters, moved from “Neve Dekalim” settlement, west of Khan Yunis, into Khan Yunis refugee camp. Immediately, they started a wide scale operation of house demolitions in the camp, without giving any prior notification to Palestinian residents. This prevented them from lodging an appeal through legal channels against this process of forced migration. Nearly half an hour later, more Israeli tanks and military vehicles were brought to the area and Israeli helicopter gunships shelled Palestinian houses. Palestinian civilians, who were trying to escape from the Israeli shelling, were extremely terrified.
At approximately 01:30, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at a number of Palestinian civilians near a mosque in the center of the camp. One civilian, Ahmed ‘Ali Abu ‘Abdullah, 50, was instantly killed by shrapnel throughout the body, when he was trying to escape from his house. Three other civilians were also injured by shrapnel from the missile. As the Israeli military operation in the camp continued, Israeli troops continued to fire at Palestinian houses. As a result, 2 other civilians were injured. By 06:15, when Israeli troops withdrew from the camp, Israeli troops had completely destroyed 49 houses completely, leaving 357 people (59 families) homeless. In addition, they had partially destroyed 5 houses, where 57 people (7 families) live.
PCHR remains gravely concerned at the policy of house demolitions practiced by Israeli occupying troops in Khan Yunis. Israeli troops have continued to escalate the number of attacks launched against civilians and their property.
Since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000, Israeli troops have destroyed 502 Palestinian houses completely and 270 others partially in Khan Yunis. This year, Israeli occupying troops have demolished 552 houses completely and 88 others partially. The previous operation to this was on 1 September 2004, when Israeli troops destroyed 2 five-storey apartment buildings, each of which included 18 flats, in al-Nimsawi neighborhood.
PCHR condemns these practices by Israeli troops, which constitute collective punishment according to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention), which prohibits forced migration of civilian population or wanton destruction of their properties. PCHR remains concerned for the continued failure of the international community to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and their properties.
PCHR calls upon the international community to provide protection for the Palestinian civilian population; The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take concrete steps to stop Israeli violations of the Convention; The High Commissioner for Human Rights to immediately visit the occupied Palestinian territory to examine the violations of human rights and collective punishment perpetrated by Israeli occupying troops against Palestinian civilians and humanitarian organizations to immediately provide assistance for victims of violations of human rights perpetrated by Israeli occupying troops against Palestinian civilians and their property.
Since the start of the Intifada Israel has caused wanton destruction to the properties of thousands of civilians, including the razing of land and demolition of their homes. Israel implements this policy under the cover of security justifications.
PCHR reiterates its call to the international community to apply international humanitarian law (in accordance with their Article 1 obligation to do so) and for Israel to apply de jure the Fourth Geneva Convention in the OPTs. PCHR further calls for universal jurisdiction to be applied in the prosecution of those who are responsible for the planning, ordering and execution of these attacks against civilians.