PCHR is gravely concerned at the decision issued by the Israeli High Court this morning rejecting a petition submitted by PCHR to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah.
This morning, Sunday 16 May 2004, the Israeli High Court considered a petition submitted by PCHR on the evening of Friday, 14 May 2004, on behalf of 13 Palestinian families living in Block O in Rafah refugee camp. Israeli occupying forces had already commenced demolition of some of the houses without prior warning and without permitting appeals against the demolition. A temporary injunction was issued on Friday evening by the High Court. In today’s session, the High Court accepted the arguments of the Israeli prosecution, and ruled that the petition was “unnecessary, as the prosecution and military officers stated that there is no intention to demolish more houses.” The High Court also stated that Israeli law permits the demolition of homes in “exceptional cases and military necessities”.
Arguments presented by the Israeli prosecution at this mornings session contradict reported statements made by the Israeli Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, that hundreds of houses along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt would be demolished; and a statement by the Israeli Defense Minster Shaul Mofaz that the activities of the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip would create “new realities” along the border in Rafah.
PCHR believes that today’s High Court ruling constitutes a green light for the Israeli military to demolish more houses in Rafah. Similar rulings have been issued by the High Court in the past effectively permitting the demolition of civilian homes and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians. The extensive destruction of civilian property, carried out wantonly and unlawfully, and without military necessity constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention as defined in article 147, and a war crime as clarified in article 85.5 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.
PCHR reiterates its concerns that Israeli occupying forces will soon resume the demolition of Palestinian homes in this area in Rafah. PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure a halt to this and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including grave breaches, perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the OPTs.