Over the past four years, the Israeli military has demolished over 2,500
Palestinian houses in the occupied Gaza Strip.3 Nearly two-thirds of these
homes were in Rafah, a densely populated refugee camp and city at the
southern end of the Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt. Sixteen thousand
people – more than ten percent of Rafah’s population – have lost their
homes, most of them refugees, many of whom were dispossessed for a second
or third time.4

As satellite images in this report show, most of the destruction in Rafah
occurred along the Israeli-controlled border between the Gaza Strip and
Egypt. During regular nighttime raids and with little or no warning,
Israeli forces used armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers to raze blocks of
homes at the edge of the camp, incrementally expanding a “buffer zone” that
is currently up to three hundred meters wide. The pattern of destruction
strongly suggests that Israeli forces demolished homes wholesale,
regardless of whether they posed a specific threat, in violation of
international law. In most of the cases Human Rights Watch found the
destruction was carried out in the absence of military necessity.

In May 2004, the Israeli government approved a plan to further expand the
buffer zone, and it is currently deliberating the details of its execution.
The Israeli military has recommended demolishing all homes within three
hundred meters of its positions, or about four hundred meters from the
border. Such destruction would leave thousands more Palestinians homeless
in one of the most densely populated places on earth. Perhaps in
recognition of the plan’s legal deficiencies, the Israel Defense Forces
(IDF) are not waiting for the government to approve the plan. Ongoing
incursions continue to eat away at Rafah’s edge, gradually attaining the
desired goal..


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