Israeli forces withdraw from Rafah, leaving 8 Palestinians dead and 2,000 homeless

Palestinian children searching for their belongings in the rubble left by Israeli bulldozers in Rafah (Photo: Rafah Today, 2003)

Following an Israeli military incursion that left dead 8 Palestinians, Israeli occupying forces finally withdrew from Rafah refugee camp at midnight on Sunday, 12 October 2003. Israeli forces moved into the camp on Friday morning, 10 October 2003, in an operation that resulted in wide-spread destruction to the densely populated area and left over 2,000 Palestinians homeless.

According to PCHR’s investigations, Israeli occupying forces completely or partially demolished 168 Palestinian houses without permitting residents to remove their belongings. Israeli forces used military vehicles, mortar shells, machine guns and missiles launched from fighter jets during the operation.

The demolition of homes left over 2,000 Palestinian civilians, mostly women and children, homeless and greatly added to the increasing number of Palestinian families that have been left homeless following similar Israeli operations since the beginning of the Intifada. Israeli authorities claim that the operation was aimed at the uncovering of tunnels that they claim are being used to smuggle weapons across the Egypt-Gaza border.

PCHR strongly condemns these latest actions of the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the Rafah refugee camp. These latest actions constitute violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, including grave breaches, particularly extensive destruction to civilian property carried out wantonly and unlawfully, and without military necessity.

PCHR reiterates that the ongoing failure of the international community to act to halt such unlawful actions, serves only to encourage further violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. PCHR therefore reiterates its calls to the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal obligation to ensure the respect for the Convention in all circumstances.