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Israel/Occupied Territories: New report condemns demolition of two Palestinian homes a day

The organisation is calling on Israel to halt all unlawful destruction of homes and land, including the expansion of Israeli settlements and the building of the “security fence” in the Occupied Territories. The Palestinian Authority is also urged to take measures to prevent attacks by Palestinian armed groups on civilians.

In the last three and half years, Israel’s armed forces have bulldozed or blown up more than 3,000 homes - an average rate of more than two homes a day. This has left tens of thousands of men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights homeless or without a livelihood.

The 65-page report, ‘Under the rubble: house demolition and destruction of land and property’, shows that planning and building policies in Israel are discriminatory. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are routinely denied building permits and face the threat of demolition of their homes.

Instead, Jewish settlers have built thousands of properties at over 150 settlements on occupied territory in violation of international law and have regularly received retroactive permits. Meanwhile, the demolition of homes without building permits in the Jewish sector of Israel is almost unheard of.

In addition to unfair building regulations, the Israeli authorities regularly cite “military/security” reasons to justify demolishing houses or to “temporarily” seize land that is invariably never returned to its Palestinian owners. Most cases of demolition are not subject to legal supervision or appeal and they sometimes occur in circumstances of artillery and heavy weapon attacks by the Israeli army.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Thousands of Palestinian homes have been destroyed as a consequence of Israel’s discriminatory practice of effectively denying Palestinians building permits.

“Often the only warning is the rumbling of the Israeli army’s bulldozers and tanks and the inhabitants barely have time to flee as the bulldozers begin to tear down the walls of their homes.”

Homes are not only torn down because families are unable to obtain a building permit. Hundreds of houses have also been destroyed in punitive armed operations carried out against the families of known or suspected Palestinian attackers. Around 500 houses have been destroyed in this fashion in the West Bank and Gaza since 2001. These have regularly involved heavily armed attacks on whole groups of houses and the destruction of houses neighbouring the property targeted.

In one case last year a pregnant woman was killed in her bed in the middle of the night after Israeli soldiers blew up a neighbouring house in the al-Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. In a separate case, 68 people - including 53 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights - were made homeless when the Israeli army blew up an eight-storey apartment building in the Wad Abu Kteila district of Hebron.

In a third case discussed in the report, a 25-year-old paraplegic man’s house - built to allow him wheelchair access - was destroyed by the army because it was on land taken over by the state. When the man’s parents protested, the police beat the man’s father and his brother.

Kate Allen added:

“In numerous instances where the Israeli army have blown up the houses of relatives of suicide bombers it has committed a flagrant form of collective punishment, explicitly forbidden under international law.

“Israel’s collective punishments have extended to buildings only tenously linked to Palestinian armed attackers and in many instances to buildings without any apparent connection to suspected attackers.

“These acts constitute war crimes.”

In addition, Amnesty international’s report shows that Israel’s “military/security” justification is so wide that almost no Palestinian/Israeli Arab property or plot of land is secure from destruction or seizure. Under the Israeli army’s interpretation of international humanitarian law - given the spread of Israeli settlements, settlers’ roads and army positions throughout the densely populated Gaza Strip next to Palestinian refugee camps, towns and villages - virtually every building or stretch of land in the Gaza Strip could potentially be considered a threat and a target for military demolition.

According to the United Nations, more than 2,000 homes in Gaza alone have been destroyed in the last three years and 10% of the agricultural land. In the West Bank, almost 90% of Israel’s fence/wall is being built on occupied territory and at least 600 homes have been destroyed.

In the period 2002-3 the destruction of agricultural land in Gaza has seen an estimated 1,800 acres destroyed – including 226,000 trees. This destruction has included the ripping up of olive, citrus, date and almond trees (ripped up from the roots, seemingly to prevent them growing again), the bulldozing of electricity poles and the filling in or smashing up of hundreds of wells, water pumps and containers.

Read the report ...

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