On Monday 10 November 2003, during a military incursion into the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip Israeli occupying forces killed one Palestinian child. During the incursion into Block O in the Rafah camp, Israeli forces also demolished 23 Palestinian houses and 5 commercial properties.
According to PCHR’s preliminary investigations, on Monday afternoon, Israeli occupying forces using heavy military vehicles, including bulldozers, moved approximately 200m into Block O in Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the border with Egypt. Under cover of intense gunfire, Israeli forces began demolishing Palestinian homes and other civilian property in the area. The military operation continued until 18:00, by which time the Israeli occupying forces had demolished 23 Palestinian houses and 5 commercial stores. As a result, 42 families comprised of around 250 people have been rendered homeless.
PCHR’s field worker in Rafah reported that many of these houses had been already vacated by their residents as they had been subject to frequent Israeli shelling. In addition, 3 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children, were wounded. One of the children, Shadi Na’im Abu ‘Anza, 14, was wounded by a live bullet in the pelvis, and died on Tuesday morning, 11 November 2003. The other civilians who were wounded were: ‘Abed ‘Aatef Abu al-Sa’id, 14, wounded by shrapnel in the left hand; and Ahmed Mohammed Abu Hashish, 27, wounded by a live bullet in the left hand.
Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, Israeli occupying forces have demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes in Rafah in similar operations. All of these operations have been justified by Israeli authorities on ‘security’ grounds. However, the lack of evidence to support these ‘security’ claims, the excessive amount of destruction inflicted and the geographical area in which most demolitions have occurred indicate that demolition operations carried out in Rafah represent a strategic policy by the Israeli government to clear a large section of Palestinian land along the boarder of Egypt in order to create a wide buffer zone and consolidate Israeli military control in the area.
In this context, Israeli occupation forces have begun construction of a concrete and metal wall parallel to the border with Egypt. The wall is being built on land that was illegally confiscated by Israel after Israeli forces demolished and cleared Palestinian homes located in the area. The operation on 10 November, 2003 came only one month after a wide-scale Israeli offensive on Rafah refugee camp, during which Israeli occupying forces demolished more than 170 houses and destroyed the civilian infrastructure of the camp.
PCHR remains deeply concerned about the ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law carried out by Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian civilian population in the OPT.
PCHR has consistently reiterated its concerns about the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian civilian property. The extensive destruction of civilian property not justified by military necessity, and carried out wantonly and unlawfully, constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
PCHR reasserts that the ongoing failure of the international community, specifically the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to intervene to ensure protection for the Palestinian civilian population has served to encourage further Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT. PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting parties, to take immediate steps to ensure the protection of the Palestinian civilian population and civilian property in the OPT.