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Hamas Destroys Gaza Homes

What is affected
Housing Private
Type of violation Forced eviction
Demolition/destruction
Dispossession/confiscation
Date 16 May 2010
Region MENA
Country Palestine
City Rafah & Khan Yunis

Affected persons (number & composition)

Total 150
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Your solution
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Forced eviction
Costs
Demolition/destruction
Land losses

- Land area (square meters)

- Total value
Housing losses
- Number of homes 20
- Total value

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

State
Local
Brief narrative

20 Families Displaced as Palestinian Land Authority Demolishes Homes in Rafah

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 09:45

On Sunday morning, 16 May 2010, the Palestinian Land Authority demolished 20 homes in the west of the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, claiming that they had been built on public land. The police assisted in the process of house demolitions. Twenty families, consisting of approximately 150 individuals, became homeless as a result. The majority of the displaced families were forced to set up tents on the debris of the demolished houses.[1] On the morning of Monday, 17 May 2010, the Land Authority also demolished two houses that were under construction and a fence in the west of al-Amal neighborhood in Khan Yunis. These house demolitions are part of a continued campaign implemented by the Land Authority to remove infringements on public lands that were illegally seized by some civilians. Bulldozers belonging to local municipalities and accompanied by the police carried the demolitions. These demolitions were carried out while the Gaza Strip is subjected to a tightened siege, under which the import of construction is banned. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its grave concern over these demolitions, which constitute a violation of civilians` right to adequate housing. These violations may affect an additional 180 houses in Rafah in the future. PCHR calls upon the government in Gaza to protect civilians from forced displacement and to put an end to such demolitions. PCHR notes that these demolitions will likely result in increased hardship for the residents of the affected homes. The majority of the affected civilians are impoverished refugees, and many of them have previously lost their houses when they were demolished by IOF in past years. According to investigations conducted by PCHR, on the morning of Sunday, 16 May 2010, a large force of the Palestinian police arrived in the targeted area with officials from the Land Authority. The officials demanded that the residents of the targeted houses evacuate their homes in preparation for the demolition. The majority of the residents refused to leave their houses, but were evacuated by force. The police beat them with clubs.

Twenty houses, including five cement houses and 15 asbestos-roofed ones, were demolished. `Issa Abdullah al-Sdoudi, 41, from the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood in Rafah, told a PCHR fieldworker that he refused to evacuate his house in preparation for demolition. He added that he was surprised when a number of policemen attacked him and forcibly pulled him out of his home. He stated that he was violently beaten. He noted that one of the policemen at the scene recognized him and intervened to stop the others who were beating him. He further said that his wife fell onto the ground and lost consciousness. The policemen then began to remove some of the furniture from the house and bulldozers demolished the house completely.

Samir Zaqqout, 46, from al-Barahma neighborhood in Rafah, told a PCHR fieldworker that over the course of three hours, bulldozers demolished numerous houses, including his home, in which he had been living with 6 of his family members. Zaqqout explained that the demolitions took place after the affected residents lost a petition they filed at the High Court of Justice in Gaza. Eighteen hearings were held to consider the case, which was then dismissed with the explanation that the targeted houses were built on public land. Zaqqout also explained that the police used force to evacuate the residents and that some civilians were beaten and, as a result, sustained bruises. He added that a number of policewomen were at the scene, some of whom evacuated his 6-member family from his 150 m2cement house. Zaqqout noted that many of the affected residents were beaten by the policemen and women as they were protesting against the demolition of their homes, which continued until 15:00. Abdul Aziz `Afana, Director General of the Department of General Administration and Governmental Property at the Land Authority in Gaza, stated to PCHR that 17houses were demolished, including one built with cement and 16 constructed from tin. He explained that the demolished houses were built on an area of 412.731 dunams.[2]

According to him, the lands on which the demolished houses had been built are public lands legally referred to as Plot 2366, Section 3. He explained that 20 dunams of the lands on which the demolished houses had been built are allocated for the construction of the Islamic Call and Humanities College in accordance with a decision issued by the Prime Minister on 12 November 2008. He noted that the Land Authority informed the targeted residents about the demolition decision several times and delivered notices to them. The residents of the area did not respond, he explained. Mr. `Afana stated that on 12 May 2010, a meeting was held between Nasser Barhoum, President of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Call College and the parties responsible for providing the land to the College, including Rafah`s Mayor, officials from the Rafah Municipality, representatives from the Land Authority and members of the police. It was agreed that the Land Authority, represented in the Governmental Property Bureau in Khan Yunis, would deliver a final notice to the residents of the targeted area on 13 May 2010 and give them a time limit of three days to vacate the area. It was also agreed that demolitions would take place on 16 May 2010. He stated that the demolitions took place on 16 May despite the fact that the residents did not respond. `Afana affirmed that the demolitions were based on Law no. 5 of 1960, amended by Law no. 8 of 1966, which was published in the Palestinian Chronicle. This law provides that "the ownership of public land cannot be decided on a retroactive basis and the competent authority shall dismantle structures without referring to any other authority."

The decision to demolish houses in Rafah coincided with a decision taken by the government in Gaza to expand areas allocated for housing on public land and to encourage individuals and institutions to build on public land. This decision was announced by Dr. Mohammed `Awad, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers. Dr. `Awad stated: "the government decided to re-plan the public land which has been infringed upon by people who expanded the area allocated for housing."

Dr. `Awad explained that, through this decision, the government in Gaza seeks to encourage individuals and institutions to legally build on public land. He added that the Ministry of Local Government, the Land Authority and other ministries will supervise the implementation of this decision.

According to statistics provided by the Land Authority, the Gaza Strip covers an area of 356,000 dunams, distributed as follows: 225,000 dunams of lands owned by civilians, endowment lands and lands owned by local authorities (69.9%), and 110,000 dunams of public land (30.1%). The government classifies infringement on public land as either agricultural infringement or housing infringement. Agricultural infringements made up 60%, housing infringements 5%, and agricultural-housing infringements 30% of all infringements. PCHR stresses its continued support for the principle of the rule of law, including all legal measures and actions.

However, PCHR expresses its grave concern regarding the impact of the eviction of civilians from their homes with the justification that their houses are built on public land. This holds true especially in view of the serious crisis affecting the residents of the Gaza Strip, resulting from the extensive demolitions implemented by IOF since the beginning of the Intifada in 2000, and the ban imposed on the importat of construction materials, urgently needed to reconstruct thousands of buildings across the Gaza Strip. PCHR notes that all legal measures and actions taken must take into consideration the need to enforce the rule of law on one hand and the respect for human rights and basic freedoms on the other. This requires examining the status and circumstances of each of the affected houses separately.

PCHR calls upon the government in Gaza to:

1. Temporarily freeze all decisions to demolish houses built on public land and protect the affected civilians from displacement caused by demolitions implemented by the Land Authority.

2. Reach an adequate agreement with the residents of houses built on public land. This may include signing contracts with the residents to establish that the government owns these lands.

3. Associate the implementation of any plans to remove building infringements with finding a viable solution for the serious crisis affecting the residents of the Gaza Strip in general.

4. Implement the decisions of the government as announced by the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers with regard to the adoption of policies that encourage individuals and institutions to legally expand construction on public land. These policies can be developed in a way that protects the legal ownership of these lands and that protects civilians against forcible eviction and displacement.

5. Protect civilians against any attacks on their property and safety of person. The provision of houses to civilians whose homes were demolished by IOF during the past ten years must be a priority. An end must be put to the continued eviction of civilians from their homes without the provision of practical alternative solutions that ensure their right to adequate housing in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law and international human rights standards.

Notes:

[1] PCHR maintains a detailed list of the owners of the demolished houses and detailed information about the number of affected families, individuals, as well as size of and numbers of rooms in each house. [2] One dunam is equal to1,000 square meters. http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6679:20-families-displaced-as-palestinian-land-authority-demolishes-homes-in

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