PCHR remains gravely concerned about the living conditions of Palestinian civilians, who have been made homeless, following the destruction of their homes by Israeli occupying forces. These civilians have resorted to temporary refugee centers, living under extremely difficult conditions. Rafah is suffering from a humanitarian crisis following the destruction of hundreds of houses and the civilian infrastructure of the town by Israeli occupying forces. PCHR calls upon the international community to provide immediate assistance to ensure that homeless civilians find shelter and live in stability and security.
Since Saturday, 19 June 2004, the Public Committee of Owners of Demolished Houses has initiated a series of protest activities. On the first day, the committee organized a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the Rafah Governorate. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians, whose houses were demolished, participated in the set-in. The participants criticized the manner in which the Palestinian Authority has dealt with the humanitarian crisis in Rafah. They claim that the Palestinian Authority has not made serious efforts to provide alternate homes for those who have become homeless.
On Sunday, 20 June 2004, the sit-in was moved to Salah al-Din Street, which leads to Rafah terminal, denying access to the terminal, in an attempt to pressure the Palestinian Authority to make efforts to solve their problem. On Monday morning, the participants in the sit-in allowed ordinary people to reach the terminal, but continued to prevent Palestinian Authority officials who have VIP cards from reaching the terminal.
In the meantime, Rafah Municipality criticized what it called the indifference and unrealistic promises by the Palestinian Authority, including the cabinet, to provide an emergency budget to continue providing basic services and cope with the outcome of the latest Israeli offensive on the town. The municipality also suspended work, excluding emergency infrastructure activities, and declared that it would be unable to provide any basic services if its demands were not fulfilled.
PCHR expresses its full solidarity with victims of this operation, which has left more than 20000 Palestinians homeless since the beginning of the current Intifada on 29 September 2000.
PCHR considers the closure of Salah al-Din Street towards Rafah terminal unacceptable as it effects ordinary Palestinian civilians throughout the Gaza Strip. PCHR calls upon the protesters to reopen the road, although it understands the suffering which has motivated people to take this course of action. PCHR calls upon the international community to make efforts to provide funds to reconstruct homes for the thousands of families that lost homes.
PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian Authority to cooperate with international agencies to provide areas of land necessary for the reconstruction of homes. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian cabinet to take immediate steps to provide emergency funds for Rafah Municipality in order to be able to provide basic services to the town and make plans for the reconstruction of homes for those who have lost their homes.