Al Mezan Center would like to comment on the statements given by the Israeli Prime Minister, his Defense Minister and the Israeli Occupation Commander of the Gaza Strip which came in response to comments made by Israeli cabinet members about targeting Palestinian residences in Rafah by the Israeli occupation forces.
They claimed- according to Ha’aretz Israeli newspaper and the Israeli radio- that only twenty-one houses were demolished in Rafah and that these houses were abandoned and unoccupied.
They said that some of these houses were used as cover for the entrances of tunnels.
Benyamin Beni-Eliezer, the Israeli Defense Minister, said that Israel would have offered Palestinians mobile houses if the houses destroyed by the Israeli forces were occupied.
Al Mezan Center condemns these statements because they aim at justifying crimes committed by its troops and believes they are untrue.
According to the fieldwork unit at the Center, the Israeli occupation forces have willfully targeted Palestinian residences.
There are now 259 houses totally destroyed by the Israeli forces during the uprising, since 29.
And 414 houses partially damaged without giving their inhabitants warning.
In the last destruction campaign, which took place on Thursday, 10.
2002 at 1.
50 and lasted more than two hours, near Salah ad-Din Gate on the borderline between Rafah and Egypt, 58 residences, lived in by Palestinian refugees, were totally destroyed by Israeli forces.
The Center’s fieldworkers and eyewitnesses reported that inhabitants of these houses could hardly leave the houses with their children and that no tunnels were discovered at any of these houses.
Al Mezan Center has complete details that support these facts including questionnaires filled in by house owners, affidavits and eyewitness accounts, the number of destroyed houses and the families which lived in them including children and women, videocassettes and photographs that prove that all of the houses were destroyed with their belonging inside.
Al Mezan Center stresses that the Israeli government’s claims are false and could not have continued if the international community continues to remains silent in the face of these crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Such crimes like the ones perpetrated in Rafah must be a basis for a more effective international intervention to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and their property in occupied Palestinian Territories.