The Demolition of Palestinian Structures Used for Terrorism-Legal Background
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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 The Demolition of Palestinian Structures Used for Terrorism-Legal Background

7/13/2005

 

State of Israel
Ministry of Justice
The Department for International ernational Agreements and International Litigation
E-Mail: international@justice.gov.il

1. Since September 2000, Israelis have been the victims of a relentless and ongoing campaign by Palestinian terrorists to spread death and destruction, condemning our region to ongoing turmoil, killing more than 1,000 Israelis and injuring more than 7,000.

2. Palestinian terrorists employ the most abhorrent and inhuman methods in order to target Israeli civilians and soldiers, contrary to any notion of morality, and in grave breach of the international laws of armed conflict. Palestinian terrorists operate from within densely populated areas, abusing the protection granted by international law to the civilian population.

3. In light of this unprecedented lethal threat, Israeli security forces have sought to find effective and lawful counter-measures that may minimize the occurrence of such terrorist attacks.

4. Faced with the failure of the Palestinian leadership to comply with its obligations to fight terrorism, stop incitement and prevent the smuggling of weapons, Israel has been compelled to combat the ongoing threat to the lives of Israelis while upholding its obligations under international law. One such security measure is the demolition of structures that pose a real security risk to Israeli forces.

5. Terrorists often operate from within homes and civilian structures. When terrorists fire from within these buildings or activate roadside charges from orchards and fields, military necessity dictates the demolition of these locations. Under International Law, these locations are considered legitimate targets. Therefore, in the midst of combat, when dictated by operational necessity, Israeli security forces may lawfully destroy structures used by terrorists.

6. A further instance necessitating the demolition of buildings is the use made by terrorist groups of civilian buildings in order to conceal openings of tunnels used to smuggle arms, explosives and terrorists from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Similarly, buildings in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip are used for the manufacturing and concealment of rockets, mortars, weapons and explosive devices to be used against Israel. The demolition of these structures is often the only way to combat this threat.

7. Israel's security forces adhere to the rules of International Humanitarian Law and are subject to the scrutiny of Israel's High Court of Justice in hundreds of petitions made annually by Palestinians and human rights organizations.

8. Israeli measures are not a form of "collective punishment" as some have claimed, as if the intention were to cause deliberate hardship to the population at large. While the security measures do unfortunately cause hardships to sectors of the Palestinian population, this is categorically not their intent. Wherever possible, even in the midst of military operations, Israel's security forces go to great lengths to minimize the effects of security measures on the civilian population not involved in terrorism.

9. In this context, Israel adopts measures in order to ensure that only terrorists and the structures they use are targeted. Furthermore, though permissible under the laws of armed conflict, Israel refrains whenever possible from attacking terrorist targets from the air or with artillery, in order to minimize collateral damage, a policy which has cost the lives of many Israeli soldiers in ground operations.

10. Finally, another practice used when necessary, is the demolition of illegally constructed buildings, generally employed in cases where buildings interfere with plans for the construction of public facilities such as schools or roads; pose a safety threat to their inhabitants; or interfere with historic landmarks. It should be stressed that all demolitions are conducted in accordance with due process guarantees, after a fair hearing subject to judicial review with the right to appeal and without distinction on the basis of race or ethnic origin. Those affected by a demolition order are entitled by law to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court.

 
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