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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Israeli demolitions 'a war crime'
A Palestinian girl among the rubble of a destroyed home in Rafah
Israel says the demolitions are needed for security reasons
Amnesty International has condemned Israel's destruction of Palestinian homes as "war crimes".

In a new report the human rights group accuses Israel of destroying more than 3,000 Palestinian homes in the current three-and-a-half year intifada.

Tens of thousands have been left homeless as the demolition reaches "unprecedented levels", Amnesty says.

Israel says the house demolitions are necessary to protect the security of its citizens against "terrorism".

The report comes as Israel launched fresh operations in the Rafah refugee camp on the Israel-Egypt border, which it says are aimed at destroying what it calls weapons-smuggling tunnels.

'Collective punishments'

But Amnesty has called on Israel to halt demolitions immediately.

Collective punishments have extended to buildings only tenuously linked to Palestinian armed attackers
Amnesty International report

It's report says that Israel's "collective punishments have extended to buildings only tenuously linked to Palestinian armed attackers".

House demolitions were linked to Israeli intentions to take over West Bank and Gaza land, it said.

It described the practices as "grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention" and "war crimes".

But a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said Israel had to "take the necessary measures to protect the lives and security of its citizens" and said it was "in full compliance with international law".

"While there is no question that the Palestinian population is suffering from the ongoing conflict, that suffering is a direct result of Palestinian terrorism aimed at innocent Israelis, and the need for Israel to protect its citizens from these abhorrent attacks."




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