As an Israeli bulldozer began to destroy his house in Rafah’s Brazil neighbourhood, Ibrahim abu Hamad, 40, was still in it.

He was talking on his mobile phone to his employer – the Israeli boss of a construction company in Tel Aviv. Meir Grimstein, who has known Mr abu Hamad for 15 years and who did his own military service in Gaza, had telephoned to ask how his employee

was doing. “When I told him the bulldozer had started to demolish my house, he said: ‘I don’t believe you. I know where your house is. It isn’t near the border.'”

But when Mr abu Hamad persuaded him otherwise, “he said ‘how can I help you?’ I told him: ‘You can’t help me. The bulldozer is already here. It’s too late.'” For by now Mr abu Hamad, his wife and seven children had fled to the back of the house as

the bulldozer rumbled on through the front, lumbering to a halt within five metres of the rear wall to leave them room to escape while waving a white cloth in the hope that it would stop the tanks shooting at the sand around their feet.

Mr abu Hamad, like other Palestinian migrant workers, has not been able to leave Gaza since March. But contacted by telephone in Tel Aviv yesterday, Mr Grimstein said he still hoped that Mr abu Hamad would be able to return to work.

He wasn’t on the spot, he said, so he wasn’t in a position to express a view about the demolitions in general, but no, he didn’t think it was fair in Mr abu Hamad’s case. The supreme irony of losing his home in a painfully short few minutes during

the height of the army’s incursion into Brazil camp last week was not lost on Mr abu Hamad. “I build houses in Israel and the Israelis destroy my house here,” he said.

The story is illustrative. The army was very slow to admit the destruction was happening at all. Now it has said that houses would not have been demolished were it not for the activities of Palestinian militants – including the killing of five

Israeli soldiers 12 days ago. But the question, as last week’s Amnesty International report highlighted, is whether the scale of demolitions is remotely proportionate to the security needs routinely cited by the military…


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