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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 20:17 GMT
Israel rights group condemns army
Palestinian man sits by his destroyed house in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip
B'Tselem described Israeli policy as 'illegal'
An Israeli human rights group has issued a report attacking the army's policy of demolishing the homes of suspected Palestinian militants.

B'Tselem estimates that, on average, twelve innocent Palestinians are made homeless every time a suspected militant's home is destroyed.

The report said 47% of the demolished houses had never been home to militants involved in attacks on Israelis.

B'Tselem described Israel's policy as a "war crime".

Israel maintains that the demolitions act as a deterrent to further attacks by Palestinian militants.

Flattened

The rights group said that 628 buildings were demolished as a punitive measure by the Israeli military, leaving almost 4,000 Palestinians homeless.

These homes were destroyed because of the actions of 333 Palestinians, the report said.

Palestinian boy holds flag by demolished homes in Jabaliya refugee camp
There is no compensation for Palestinians made homeless by Israeli demolitions
A further 3,400 homes were flattened after Israel said they had been built without permission or as part of ""clearing operations".

Clearing operations often entail the demolition of buildings Israel says are used by Palestinian militants to launch or plan attacks.

In total, Israeli soldiers have demolished 4,100 Palestinian homes since September 2000, leaving 28,000 homeless, B'Tselem said.

Palestinians were given prior warning of the demolitions in fewer than 3% of cases, according to the report.

Compensation

B'Tselem said that the deterrent effect of home demolitions had never been proven.

The group went on to describe Israel's policy as "a grave breach of international humanitarian law".

It concluded the report by demanding the government "cease the policy of demolishing houses as a means of punishment, and compensate Palestinians whose homes have been demolished as a result of this policy".

The Israeli military replied by saying: "House demolition is based on clear military considerations and is done in full accordance with the law."

The statement said that the Israel Supreme Court had upheld the practice on several occasions.




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