Arafat, Roed Larsen Deplore Israel’s Demolitions
Arafat, Roed Larsen Deplore Israel’s Home Demolitions
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Sunday slammed Israel’s demolition of three multi-storey residential buildings in the Gaza Strip as a “catastrophe” after more than 2000 Palestinians were rendered homeless.
In a meeting at his battered Ramallah compound with a French delegation visiting the occupied territory in solidarity, the veteran leader condemned Israel’s destruction of three tower buildings, consisting of 144 apartments and housing more than 2000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip city of Al-Zahra’.
The Executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which met with Arafat following the French delegation’s visit, also vehemently condemned the Israeli destruction of homes—close to the illegal Israeli settlement of Netzarim—and called upon the international community to rebuke Sunday’s vast demolition spree.
The Israeli destruction of the residential buildings, which housed hundreds of Palestinian security personnel and their families, was viewed as the largest since the Intifada for independence erupted some three years ago.
Israel has been consistently leveling homes to the ground in a move widely condemned by human rights groups and the international community as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international law.
Article 53 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention forbids “any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons”.
According UNRWA, close to 12,000 Palestinians have been made homeless by these demolitions in the Gaza Strip alone since the outbreak of the Intifada.
UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Terje Roed-Larsen deplored the Gaza demolitions, saying they represent “a clear violation of the rules of international law.”
“Destroying property as a punitive measure is a clear violation of the rules of international law. Such actions are also counterproductive toward Israel’s legitimate security concerns, for they foster further anger and despair among Palestinians,” he said in a statement.
It was before dawn Sunday that residents awoke to the sounds of rumbling tanks and armored personnel carriers. Without any notice or enough time to take belongings, hundreds of families were forced upon gunpoint to evacuate their homes.
Three 12-storey inhabited buildings were leveled to the ground, leaving behind a pancake of rubble and steel, witnesses said.
The wanton destruction and the eviction of thousands of people comes at a time when Palestinian Muslims began celebrations for the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
Cabinet minister and chief Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat called the demolitions a “war crime” and called upon the “Quartet” of Middle East peace mediators to intervene immediately to stop what he called “Israeli crimes”.
“What the Israeli army has done this morning - destroying three housing projects - is a war crime and a major violation of the Geneva Convention,” he said.
Similarly, President Arafat’s media advisor, Nabil
Abu Rudeineh criticized Israel’s latest act of collective
punishment as yet another “crime” committed by the Jewish
state, adding that this move will lead to disastrous
consequences and that it “won’t pass without a