Israel is justifying the destruction of Palestinian homes as a punitive and personal message to those suspected of "terrorist attacks" - a policy which has been widely condemned by human rights groups as an act of collective punishment.

The Israeli government largely abandoned the practice in 2005. But on Sunday, the military demolished the homes of two Palestinians suspected of killing three Israeli settlers in June, and sealed a third with concrete.

Approval was given by Israel's Supreme Court, despite objections from the Israeli rights group Hamoked, which had filed a legal challenge.

Lieutenant colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement: "The demolition of the terrorists' homes conveys a clear message to terrorists and their accomplices that there is a personal price to pay when engaging in terror and carrying out attacks against Israelis."

That price is being paid by suspects’ families - but under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, any form of collective punishment is considered a war crime. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: "Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons … is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."

So can Israel justify the demolition of Palestinian homes for security reasons? Or does the policy constitute a war crime under the Geneva Convention?

Presenter Shiulie Ghosh


Jeff Halper - director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Avi Bell - a professor of law at Bar-Ilan University and a specialist in international and property law.

Bill Van Esveld - an Israel and Palestine researcher at Human Rights Watch, and a specialist in human rights law and armed conflict.

Source: Aljazeera