UN human rights expert condemns Israel's destruction of homes in Palestinian Territories

UN human rights expert condemns Israel's destruction of homes in Palestinian Territories

A United Nations expert on housing and land rights today strongly condemned the methodical destruction of homes and confiscation of land being systematically wrought by Israeli military forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Milloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of an adequate standard of living, told the press in New York that the international community was "duty bound" to intervene on the behalf of the Palestinian people. "We must not lose focus of any aspect of the ongoing violence and occupation, particularly the human impact of land and water confiscation, punitive house demolitions and forced evictions," he said.

The expert cited recent studies describing what appeared to be a systematic consolidation of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands as more and more Palestinian homes were demolished and Israeli settlers and settlements were implanted. In the past 10 years, Israeli authorities had demolished more than 2,200 residences, displacing some 13,000 Palestinians. At the same time, at least 155 Israeli settlements, home to more than 170,000 Israeli citizens, had been established.

Mr. Kothari stressed that the demolition of homes, hoarding of natural resources and other collective punishments that continued unabated in Palestinian areas should be considered war crimes. The psychological effects of all this, particularly on women and children, warranted equal condemnation, he said.

Calling attention to the particular impact suffered by youngsters, he said a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) study had shown that during March and April of this year, 330,000 Palestinian children had been confined to their homes, some 500,000 had been unable to access health and social services, and nearly 600,000 children had been prevented from attending school. "I am particularly concerned that no steps are being taken by the international community to address this situation which is seriously impacting the future generation of Palestinians living in the occupied territories," he said.

The Special Rapporteur also strongly condemned a recent Israeli Supreme Court decision which permitted the seizure and/or demolition of homes and property of the relatives of suspected participants in suicide bombings. That law clearly contravened international legal and humanitarian instruments, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The only way to end the tragic Middle East crisis was to bring an end to the occupation, he said. That objective could only be reached through the immediate dismantling of all illegal settlements, halting expansion and planning of new settlements, placing a moratorium on land confiscation and house demolition for any purpose, and restoring public and private Palestinian land to its rightful owners.