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6 Dec. 05: B'Tselem to Mofaz: Prevent the renewal of house demolitions

Following the announcement that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz requested the approval of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to demolish the homes of suicide-bombers' families, B'Tselem requested the attorney general to prevent the illegal policy from being reinstituted.

In its letter, B'Tselem points out that the demolition of houses as punishment is a grave breach of international humanitarian law. The declared objective of the policy is to harm innocent persons - relatives of the suspected perpetrator, who are not accused of any criminal wrongdoing. The demolition of houses is a clear case of collective punishment, which violates the principle that a person is not to be punished for the acts of another. Collective punishment is therefore illegal regardless of its effectiveness.

Regarding the effectiveness of the house-demolition policy, a committee appointed by the then-chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, found that the policy created more harm than good to Israel's security. The committee's finding undermines the claim that Israel has used for many years that the policy has deters potential terrorists.

Background

From October 2001 to the end of January 2005, Israel demolished 667 Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories as a means of punishment, which left more than 4,200 persons homeless. Half of the demolished houses were situated adjacent to houses of the family of the person because of whom the demolition took place.

In February of this year, the committee appointed by Chief-of-Staff Ya'alon recommended that the policy be stopped. The committee found that the demolition of houses is not an efficiency means of deterrence. In 17 February, Defense Minister Mofaz adopted the recommendation.