Since the start of the second Intifada, Israel has introduced increasingly draconian measures, while arguing that it is trying to contain “terrorism”.

It has tightened its grip on the Palestinians through regular incursions, “closure” policies within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and, in particular, the demolition of thousands of properties throughout the occupied territories.

The United Nations, the European Union, and the US State Department, together with international human rights groups and non-governmental organisations, have reported on these violations and protested repeatedly to the Israeli government.
 
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights regularly issues reports on the actions of the Israeli army (the IDF), and in September 2003 sent a memorandum to the signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention (a convention on the rules of warfare), stating that the violations of the Israeli army constituted a continued breach of international law. It strongly condemned collective punishments, such as house demolitions.

The report found that, over the past three years, the demolition of civilian homes, government offices, commercial properties, and education and health facilities has become a regular feature throughout the occupied territories.

Thousands made homeless

Since the end of September 2003, at least 1260 civilian homes have been destroyed in the Gaza Strip alone, leaving approximately 10,000 Palestinians homeless.

At least 1067 more homes have been damaged by indiscriminate shelling, shooting and bombardment by machine guns, military bulldozers, tanks and other armoured vehicles, helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter planes.

Palestinians cross a major road in
the Gaza Strip on foot while
Israeli soldiers close the road

The implementation of this policy in the West Bank has steadily increased over the past three years, with a particularly rapid escalation in the Gaza Strip.

The inhabitants are rarely given prior warning of demolitions and are often only aware of the impending destruction when they hear the military vehicles approaching. Increasing numbers of residents have been injured and killed in such operations.

The Israeli authorities have also implemented a policy of movement restrictions, or “closures”, on the Palestinian population. This policy has reached unprecedented levels since September 2000.

An imprisoned population

The network of restrictions on movement by people and their goods has rendered normal life impossible. Military checkpoints, road barriers, walls, trenches, curfews, travel permit requirements, patrols, and the closure of external borders have imprisoned the wider population, crippled the economy, and restricted family, social, cultural and political life.

Unemployment is up to 80% in some areas. In addition, the rising poverty levels, and restrictions on movement of goods, have impacted on access to food.

According to a survey conducted by Care International and USAID, more than 17% of the children in the Gaza Strip are suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition and nearly 8% in the West Bank.

Olive groves uprooted

Approximately 17.5 million square metres of land in the Gaza Strip, most of it agricultural, has been razed by the Israelis. This represents at least 10% of the arable land available in the Gaza Strip, much of which has been seized by Israeli settlers.

The olive industry, a traditional career for a considerable number of Palestinians, is also under attack.

Civil rights activists inspect olive
trees destroyed at Ain Abbus

Palestine has always been known for its fine olives and 50% of the agricultural land in Palestine is planted with olive trees. It generates up to $800 million annually.

The industry represents a vital engine to the moribund economy and has become widely targeted by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers who have stolen and uprooted more than 251,000 trees.

Many Palestinian farmers rely soley on their olive groves for income.

It is estimated that as much $237 million in revenue for the Palestinians between the start of the second Intifada to August 2003.