Thursday, 13 May 2010

Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of wanton destruction of homes


(Jerusalem) - Israel should investigate the unlawful destruction of civilian property during the 2009 Gaza hostilities and lift the blockade that hinders residents from rebuilding their homes, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

The 116-page report, "‘I Lost Everything': Israel's Unlawful Destruction of Property in the Gaza Conflict" documents 12 separate cases during Operation Cast Lead in which Israeli forces extensively destroyed civilian property, including homes, factories, farms, and greenhouses, in areas under their control, without any lawful military purpose. Human Rights Watch's investigations, which relied upon physical evidence, satellite imagery, and multiple witness accounts at each site, found no indication of nearby fighting when the destruction occurred.

Israel has claimed that its forces destroyed civilian property only when Palestinian armed groups were fighting from it, or were using it to store weapons, hide tunnels, or advance other military purposes. Israel also claims that many Gazan homes were destroyed by Hamas booby-traps. The evidence in the incidents that Human Rights Watch investigated does not support such claims.

"Almost 16 months after the war, Israel has not held accountable troops who unlawfully destroyed swaths of civilian property in areas under their control," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Israel's blockade continues to keep Gazans from rebuilding their homes, meaning that Israel is still punishing Gaza's civilians long after the fighting is over." more