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Israel criticised for destroying thousands of Palestinian homes

UN envoy: IDF has destroyed 4,170 houses

John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the territories, told the Knesset Law Committee that the army has destroyed 4,170 Palestinian homes since September 2000.

Dugard was the guest of the committee that held a discussion on house demolitions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the more than four years of fighting between the IDF and Palestinian terrorist groups.

Dugard focused on the army's demolition of houses carried out on grounds of alleged "military necessity." He said these demolitions constituted 85 percent of all Palestinian house demolitions, and violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, because the homes had not been destroyed during combat.

His position was based on the widely accepted International Red Cross interpretation of the article dealing with the issue, said Dugard.

Throughout May 2004, including Operation Rainbow from May 18 to 24, Israel destroyed 298 buildings in Rafah, affecting 710 families or 3,800 people, said Dugard.

These homes were demolished not as the unavoidable outcome of the fighting but because the army wanted to create a buffer zone adjacent to the Philadelphi Route to protect its soldiers and prevent Palestinians from building underground tunnels beneath the Israeli-controlled border strip.

According to Dugard, Israel could use electronic means to discover tunnels instead of demolishing homes. Dugard spoke in a restrained and diplomatic way.

However, in a recent report to the UN on what Israel's legal status will be regarding the Gaza Strip after disengagement, he charged that, "Israel has engaged in a massive and wanton destruction of property. Bulldozers have destroyed homes in a purposeless manner and have savagely dug up roads, including electricity, sewage and water lines."

Judge Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit rejected Dugard's charges.

He maintained that only 1,300 homes had been demolished in the past four years, and that all of them had been leveled out of military necessity. In Jenin, for example, the army had to destroy houses in order to reach terrorist strongholds because the regular roads had been filled with explosive devices.

The difficulties in Gaza were even greater. There, the fighting bordered on all-out war, said Mandelblit, and the only way to reach the terrorists was by using heavy tractors to cut a swath through the housing.

Irit Kohn, outgoing head of the Justice Ministry's International Section, charged that the UN and other international bodies were biased against Israel.

"You shouldn't get the idea that we decide on measures that cause suffering as if it were nothing," Kohn told Dugard.

"There have been many arguments in the attorney-general's office about this policy. But we cannot just ignore the fact that 1,300 Israelis have been killed during the intifada."

She also pointed out that the Supreme Court had authorized the demolitions. Kahn added that the demolition of houses was not part of a systematic policy meant to achieve premeditated aims. "Your judgments of our actions are imbalanced," she concluded.

Right-wing MKs echoed Kahn's accusations that the UN and other organizations were biased.

"We are the most careful country imaginable," said Eliezer Cohen (National Union). "We carry out debriefings after every operation, we pinpoint our attacks and we allow the High Court of Justice to intervene You describe the situation in a one-sided, cruel and immoral way."

In his response to these charges, Dugard continued to maintain that the house demolitions violated international law but said he had listened carefully to the complaints and that he would give more expression to Israel's point of view in the future.


Jerusalem Post, "UN envoy: IDF has destroyed 4,170 houses", 17 February 2005.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 17 February 2005.

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Tags: Israel, demolished, Palestinian, homes, houses, Palestine, Human Rights, United Nations, UN, West Bank, Gaza Strip, Geneva Convention, illegal, War Crimes, Israeli Defence Forces, IDF, terrorists, , conspiracy theories.

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