The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) penetrated the town of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, at Block O in the refugee camp and the As-Salam area.
The object of this incursion was to destroy the Al Qasir family’s home in the latter area.
At about 3 pm Tuesday 22 September 2002, IOF bulldozers and tanks entered the area of Block O, near the Salah ad-Din Gate.
Terrified civilians left the houses and asked for time to empty them.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported that an Israeli bulldozer driver told civilians, through loudspeakers, that they intended to destroy the homes.
Immediately, Al Mean’s lawyers contacted the Israeli Army’s Legal Advisor and the Israeli Military Prosecutor demanding that they stop this illegal procedure.
The IOF had not given due warning to the home owners of their intention to destroy the houses, thus ignoring the Israeli High Court’s previous rulings which Al Mezan’s representations had obtained earlier this year in three similar cases.
The Israeli Army’s Legal Advisor notified the lawyers that the threatened home demolitions would not proceed, and that the IOF would not carry out any demolitions without previous notification of the residents.
In a separate attack the same day, sixteen Israeli tanks entered the As-Salam area, located on the border between Rafah and Egypt, and stationed near the Al-Qasir home.
At 11 pm the soldiers broke into the two-story-house, which was occupied by 21 people, and used explosives to destroy it.
It should be noted that Muhammad Al-Qasir was killed in an attack by the IOF and settlers on 18 February 2002 in the middle of the Gaza Strip.
As a result of the explosion, nineteen civilians were injured in the area.
Medical sources reported that the IOF prevented medical assistance to them for an hour.
In addition, eight homes were partially destroyed.
These home are owned by: Zuheir Muhammad Barakat, whose car was also damaged, Muhammad Muhammad Barakat, Fayiz Nur ad-Din Abu al-Su’ud, Atta Muhammad Abu Ayyash, Nadir Abid al-Akhras, Ismail Ramadan al-Kurd, Fathi Sulaiman al-Sududi, and Fayiz Dieb Barakat.
The IOF also destroyed two other homes in the area.
Al Mezan knew that these homes were owned by Salih Hasan ash-Shair and Muhammad Abdul Hamid as-Sbakhi.
Additionally, two other apartments in Bahlul’s building were subjected to arson by the IOF.
The apartments were owned by Mahmud and Khalid Bahlul.
The IOF occupied the Bahlul building for an hour before the fire was started.
Fayiz Dieb Barakt, whose home was destroyed, said in his affidavit to Al Mezan that he tried to speak with the soldiers and ask them to allow his family and the neighbors to leave the area, but was ordered to go back to his house.
He said that twelve people from his family were wounded.
This incident indicates the Israeli forces’ intention to target both civilians and property.
In addition the IOF ruined many roads and destroyed the electricity and phone systems before they left the area.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned by the daily Israeli incursions in taking place in Gaza Strip towns and villages, which usually result in loss of civilians lives and property and constitute collective punishment procedures.
The Center stresses that Israel’s continued policy of home demolition is illegal even when civilians are previously notified.
Al Mezan calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to intervene immediately and stop the ongoing Israeli crimes being committed against civilians and to ensure respect for the Convention by the OPTs.