Icahd – Statistics on House Demolitions (1967-2009)
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that some 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967, based on information gleaned from the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Civil Administration, OCHA and other UN sources, Palestinian & Israeli human rights groups, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, our field work and other sources. Last updated on 7 April 2009.
For the sources for these stats, and much, much more, see the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions website.
Types of demolitions
1. Punitive demolitions: Houses demolished as punishment for the actions of people associated with the houses. The actions in questions have been everything from political organizing to attacks on Israeli civilians. This policy was suspended by the IDF in February, 2005 after it reached the conclusion that rather than deterring attacks, punitive demolitions only enflame the people and lead to more attacks. The practice was resumed on 19 January 2009. Although this is thought of by most people as the main reason why houses are demolished, in fact punitive demolitions account for only 8.5% of all defined demolitions. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Punitive demolitions, by definition, violate this statute.
2. Administrative demolitions:Houses demolished for lack of a building permit. This happens in Area C and in East Jerusalem, under exclusive Israeli authority, though prior to the existence of Areas A, B & C it occurred in other areas as well.It is important to point out that in almost all cases, Palestinians have no choice but to build “illegally” as permits are almost impossible to obtain. It is also the case that in Area B, if a house is in close proximity to a military base or a road used by the military or settlers, it may also face administrative demolition. Israeli officials explain this type of demolition by stating that Palestinians are violating the zoning and planning laws and that the demolitions are merely law enforcement. This type of demolition accounts for approximately 26% of defined demolitions. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention declares that the destruction of property “is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” With these demolitions there is no pretense of military action, and are as such clear violations of international law.
3. Land-clearing operations/Military demolitions: Houses demolished by the IDF in the course of military operations for the purposes of clearing off a piece of land (for whatever reason), achieve a military goal or to kill wanted persons as part of Israel’s policy of extrajudicial executions. Military demolition account for about 65.5% of defined demolitions. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention applies and the Israeli Defence Force itself found, referring to Operation Cast Lead, the massive destruction of homes “is very difficult to justify from a legal perspective, particularly if such justifications are called for in legal proceedings with international organizations.”
4. Undefined demolitions:ICAHD is collecting information and investigating the status of many demolitions carried out between 1967-1982. Preliminary results indicate these will include demolitions from all categories but with the majority being land-clearing operations/military and punitive.