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Statistics on House Demolitions (1967-2009)

ICAHD estimates that some 24,143 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories since 1967.

Based on information gleaned from the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Civil Administration, OCHA and other UN sources, Palestinian & Israeli human rights groups, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, our field work and other sources. Last updated on 7 April 2009.

Types of demolitions  

  1. Punitive demolitions: Houses demolished as punishment for the actions of people associated with the houses. The actions in questions have been everything from political organizing to attacks on Israeli civilians. This policy was suspended by the IDF in February, 2005 after it reached the conclusion that rather than deterring attacks, punitive demolitions only enflame the people and lead to more attacks. The practice was resumed on 19 January 2009. Although this is thought of by most people as the main reason why houses are demolished, in fact punitive demolitions account for only 8.5% of all defined demolitions. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Punitive demolitions, by definition, violate this statute.  
  1. Administrative demolitions: Houses demolished for lack of a building permit.  This happens in Area C and in East Jerusalem, under exclusive Israeli authority, though prior to the existence of Areas A, B & C it occurred in other areas as well.  It is important to point out that in almost all cases, Palestinians have no choice but to build "illegally" as permits are almost impossible to obtain. It is also the case that in Area B, if a house is in close proximity to a military base or a road used by the military or settlers, it may also face administrative demolition. Israeli officials explain this type of demolition by stating that Palestinians are violating the zoning and planning laws and that the demolitions are merely law enforcement. This type of demolition accounts for approximately 26% of defined demolitions. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention declares that the destruction of property “is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” With these demolitions there is no pretense of military action, and are as such clear violations of international law.  
  1. Land-clearing operations/Military demolitions:  Houses demolished by the IDF in the course of military operations for the purposes of clearing off a piece of land (for whatever reason), achieve a military goal or to kill wanted persons as part of Israel’s policy of extrajudicial executions. Military demolition account for about 65.5% of defined demolitions. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention applies and the Israeli Defence Force itself found, referring to Operation Cast Lead, the massive destruction of homes “is very difficult to justify from a legal perspective, particularly if such justifications are called for in legal proceedings with international organizations."  
  1. Undefined demolitions: ICAHD is collecting information and investigating the status of many demolitions carried out between 1967-1982. Preliminary results indicate these will include demolitions from all categories but with the majority being land-clearing operations/military and punitive.

Numbers of demolitions:

[i] The Israel League for Human and Civil Rights (1970), “The United Nations Commission on the Israeli practices in the occupied territories.” Accessed 22 December 2008 via ttp://domino.un.org/.  United Nations General Assembly (1967) “Report of the Secretary-General under General Assembly resolution 2252 (ES-V) and Security Council resolution 237 (1967).”  Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.domino.un.org. Abowd, Thomas Philip (2000) “The Moroccan Quarter: A History of the Present.”  Jerusalem: Jerusalem Quarterly .  Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.jerusalemquarterly.org. Palestine Remembered (n. d.) “’Imwas”, “Bayt Nuba”, “Yalu”.  Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.palestineremembered.com. This total does not include the numbers from the Jordan Valley villages of Nuseirat, Jiftlik, and Arajish, all of which were leveled, as those numbers are currently unavailable.

[ii] United Nations General Assembly (1984) “Report of the Secretary-General, Living Conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”  Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.domino.un.org. This is the source for all statistics on undefined demolitions between 1967 and 1982. In the actual report these are listed as punitive demolitions though a UN source states all demolitions were classified as “Collective Punishment.”

[iii] Human Rights Watch (2004) Razing Rafah . New York: Human Rights Watch.  Halper, Jeff (2005).  Obstacles to Peace  (2005) Jerusalem: PalMap. This number is from a mass demolition that took place in the Gaza Strip in August.

[iv] UNISPAL (30 march 1979) Special Unit on Palestinian Rights bulletin no.3.  Retrieved 9 November 2006 from http://www.domino.un.org. This is also cited in the 25 May 1984 document from the UN General Assembly, “Living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories. Report of the Secretary-General.”

[v] Talmor, Ronny (1989) Demolition and Sealing of Houses as a Punitive Measure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip During the Intifada . Jerusalem: B’Tselem. This report is the source for the data on punitive demolitions from 1983-86.

[vi] B’Tselem (2005) “Statistics on demolition of houses as punishment 1987-2005.” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.btselem.org. All the statistics on punitive house demolitions from 1987-2005 come from this.

[vii] B’Tselem (2006) “Statistics on demolition of houses built without permits.”  Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.btselem.org. All the statistics on administrative demolitions between 1987-1993 come from this.

[viii] Margalit, Meir (2006) Discrimination in the Heart of the Holy City . Jerusalem: IPCC. Margalit, Meir (2006). Personal communication with Dr. Margalit, field researcher for ICAHD. B’Tselem (2006)  “Statistics on demolition of houses built without permits.” Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.btselem.org. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2005-2008).  Weekly Humanitarian Briefings #s 86-240. ICAHD field work, All statistics about administrative house demolitions between 1994-2009 come from these sources.

[ix] B’Tselem (2006) “Statistics on houses demolished for alleged military purposes.”  Retrieved 25 September 2006 from http://www.btselem.org.  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2005-2008)  Weekly Humanitarian Briefings #s 86-240.

[x] Demolition witnessed by ICAHD staff on 19 January 2009.

[xi] Preliminary total for houses completely demolished in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Number provided by the UN OCHA through email communication on 10 February 2009. All demolitions occurring during Cast Lead are listed in 2009, despite several hundred occurring just before the new year.

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