Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's Home Demolitions Make 2,197 Homeless in One Month

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's Home Demolitions Make 2,197 Homeless in One Month

Article excerpt

Maher Nasser, chief of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Liaison Office in New York, spoke at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC on May 20. Nasser addressed Israel's incursion the previous day into the Gaza Strip's Rafah refugee camp, calling the killing of civilians "the most tragic aspect of the [Palestinian-Israeli] conflict."

Compared with the rest of Gaza and the West Bank, Rafah has had to bear the brunt of Israel's policies of home demolitions and its targeting of civilians. According to UNRWA, 2,197 Palestinians were made homeless in the first three weeks of May after the Israeli army demolished 191 homes throughout the Gaza Strip. "Hardest hit has been the Rafah area, where 1,064 people, within the last three days, have lost their homes," the Palestine Center wrote in a statement released May 18.

In the past four years, 18,382 Palestinians throughout the Gaza Strip have lost their homes. Of those, Nasser revealed, 14,666 are from Rafah. In the first half of May alone, he said, 2,000 people lost their homes. On May 26, UNRWA released a statement updating those figures: from May 1 to May 24, Israeli troops in Rafah demolished 277 buildings, housing 641 families, or 3,451 individuals.

Last year, the figure was half of what it is today, Nasser added. In fact, he said, during the past year, Israel destroyed more Palestinian homes than during the first 36 months of the current intifada.

Nasser said home demolitions typically take place at night, giving families little time to gather their belongings. Calling it a "heart-wrenching sight," Nasser described the scene of young Palestinian children looking for their school notebooks, and older women rescuing family heirlooms and their favorite articles of clothing amid the rubble of their destroyed homes. …

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