by Donald Macintyre
Israel was accused yesterday of committing a war crime by its destruction of
more than 3,000 Palestinian homes in Israel and the occupied territories
since the intifada began three and a half years ago.
The damning report from Amnesty International came as the Israeli army
killed up to 19 Palestinians - children as well as militants - in the Rafah
refugee camp in the Gaza Strip where General Moshe Ya'alon, the army chief
of staff, warned at the weekend that hundreds more homes could be destroyed.
In its critique of the Israeli policy of destroying buildings and "vast
areas" of agricultural land, the report challenges head-on the argument that
the destruction is militarily necessary. It also warns that "punitive forced
evictions and house demolitions" are a "flagrant form of collective
punishment" that "violate a fundamental principle of international law".
The report was published as a heavily armoured Israeli force moved into the
Tel Sultan district of the Rafah camp yesterday, in one of Israel's biggest
incursions into Gaza. The attack followed an assault by helicopter gunships
which had earlier killed seven Palestinians - at least three of them gunmen
- outside a mosque. . . .
The greatest burden of house destruction has fallen on Gaza, with more than
2,200 demolitions in the past three-and-a-half years, and Rafah the worst
afflicted area. The Amnesty report suggests that a high proportion of
demolitions is purely punitive and that such "collective punishment",
including destruction of homes of families of suicide bombers, is against
Ramzy Baroud, "America, We Feel your Pain,
Do you Feel Ours?," The Wisdom Fund, September 18, 2001
"What's Wrong With 'Suicide' Bombing?,"
The Wisdom Fund, May 9, 2002
Akiva Eldar, "Sharon's Bantustans
Are Far From Copenhagen's Hope?," Haaretz, May 13, 2003
Uri Avnery, "Sharon's Herzliyah
Speech," Gush Shalom, December 18, 2003
Evelyn Leopold, "UN Council Votes
Against Israel Demolition," Reuters, May 19, 2003
Chris McGreal, "Ten
die as Israeli tanks fire on peaceful protest," Guardian, May 20, 2004