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Amnesty International Rafah Update and Plea to All Communities
An offending military demolishing homes and killing civilians.
PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 15/053/2004
UA 176/04 House demolition 18 May 2004
ISRAEL/OCCUPIED TERRITORIES Palestinian civilians in Rafah refugee camp
The Israeli army has accelerated its demolition of houses in the Rafah
refugee camp in the past few days, making over 1,000 people homeless. The
army intends to demolish more houses in the camp.
Amnesty International delegates went to the areas where homes have been
destroyed, and saw dozens of families fleeing with their possessions in
anticipation of further destruction.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) officials estimate that the
Israeli army has destroyed more than 80 buildings in the Rafah refugee camp
during the past few days, leaving some 1,100 Palestinians homeless. Israeli
army officials have announced their intention to demolish more homes, and on
16 May the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition, filed by human rights
organizations on behalf of Palestinian families living in the refugee camp,
to stop the demolitions.
The army say this latest wave of destruction of Palestinian homes is
intended to expand the no-go area (referred to as the Philadelphi Route)
along the Egyptian border in the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli
authorities contend that the massive scale of house demolition is necessary
to uncover tunnels used by Palestinians to smuggle weapons into the Gaza
Strip from Egypt. The demolition plan was reportedly approved on 13 May by
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and other top
The Rafah refugee camp, in existence since 1948, is very densely populated,
with rows of houses separated by narrow alleyways. In late 2000 the Israeli
army began the massive destruction of houses in the camp. Until then, houses
had stood only a few meters from the border with Egypt: now houses are
reduced to rubble for up to 300 meters from the border. The destruction has
targeted row after row of houses, contrary to claims by the Israeli
authorities that they only destroy houses used by Palestinians to attack
Israeli soldiers patrolling the border, and houses used as cover for
On 14 May, Israeli army Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon reportedly said that
"There's a process whereby the first row of houses is abandoned and used for
digging tunnels for smuggling weapons and cover for shootingâ€¦ We've been
forced to destroy houses here in the past and apparently we'll have to
destroy more houses in the future."
Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that "Any destruction by
the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or
collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public
authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited,
except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military
Amnesty International believes that the massive destruction in Rafah refugee
camp and elsewhere in the Gaza Strip cannot be justified on the grounds of
"absolute military necessity," as the Israeli authorities claim, and
constitutes a form of collective punishment against the tens of thousands of
Palestinians who have been affected. Such measures are a violation of
international humanitarian law, notably Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention, which states: "No protected person [i.e. those living under
foreign occupation] may be punished for an offence he or she has not
personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of
intimidation...are prohibited...Reprisals against protected persons and
their property are prohibited"
More than 3,000 homes, vast areas of agricultural land and hundreds of other
properties have been destroyed by the Israeli army and security forces in
Israel and the Occupied Territories since September 2000. Tens of thousands
of men, women and children have been made homeless or have lost their source
of livelihood. Thousands of other houses have been damaged, many beyond
repair, and tens of thousands are under threat of demolition.
In the Gaza Strip alone some 18,000 Palestinians, most of them refugees,
have been made homeless by the destruction carried out by the Israeli army.
The area where most homes has been destroyed is the Rafah refugee camp,
where more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed and hundreds of others have
been partially destroyed or very seriously damaged since October 2000.
Amnesty International has now issued a report on Israel and the Occupied
Territories entitled Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of
land and property (AI Index: MDE 15/033/2004), in which it analyses the main
patterns and trends of forced eviction, house demolition and destruction of
property by the Israeli army and security forces in Israel and the Occupied
Territories in the light of international human rights and humanitarian law.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in
English, Hebrew or your own language:
- calling on the Israeli authorities to immediately stop the demolition of
houses in the Rafah refugee camp, which is in contravention of international
- urging the Israeli authorities to provide reparation to those whose homes
have been destroyed or damaged unlawfully.
Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
P O Box 187
Jerusalem 91919, Israel
Fax: +972 2 5665737
E-mail: pm_eng [at] pmo.gov.il
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Shaul Mofaz, Minister of Defence
Ministry of Defence
Tel Aviv 67659
Fax: +972 3 691 6940 or +972 3 696 2757 or +972 3 691 7915
Email: sar [at] mod.gov.il or pniot [at] mod.gov.il
Salutation: Dear Minister
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Israel accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 29 June 2004.