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Gaza Demolitions - Is the IDF lying? Is there a better way?


The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled today that the IDF can go ahead with massive house demolitions along the Philadelphi patrol road in Gaza. The road runs along the Egyptian border, and the purpose of patrols is to prevent smuggling of arms and digging of tunnels to smuggle arms. But what is the purpose of the proposed house demolitions, which have been denounced by the US and the UN?

According to Haaretz the court ruled in favor of the IDF demolitions after the IDF testified that the houses were being torn down because of immediate operational needs: snipers were using the houses to hit patrols. If the demolitions were planned, the IDF would need to give residents prior advance warning, allowing them to appeal the demolition order. IDF Colonel Rimsky insisted it was tearing down houses for "operational needs:"

Colonel Shuki Rinsky, a deputy IDF commander in Gaza, told reporters outside the court: "If there will continue to be a danger to soldiers, we will continue to destroy houses without giving prior warning."

Rinsky said such a policy would be in adherence to the court's decision.

However, an Israel radio broadcast on Friday gave quite a different reason for the demolitions. As reported by IMRA news service, the radio report indicated:

The operation, that will begin once the search for body parts in the Corridor is concluded, will involve the razing of hundreds of buildings that until now provided cover for the exit points of the smuggling tunnels from Egypt and for Palestinian forces attacking Israeli patrols on the Philadelphi Corridor. Israel will also erect a series of surveillance posts along the widened Corridor to make it possible to better monitor the Corridor.

The widened Corridor will make it considerably more difficult to dig tunnels long enough to reach cover for an exit point on the Gaza side. Israeli officials noted that the move is required as Israel will retain control of the Corridor even if Sharon's disengagement plan is implemented.

Are demolitions needed to prevent sniping or to prevent tunnels? If you have any doubts, Maariv tells us that immediately after the court decision, IDF Chief of Staff announced that hundreds of houses will be demolished, and adds:

The houses in question were not used by Palestinian snipers against Israelis, but were houses the IDF wants removed for, among other reasons, widening the Philadelphi route where five soldiers were killed on Wednesday.

If the houses were not used by snipers, why does the IDF want to destroy them?

According to Ma'ariv:

Chief of Staff Moshe (Bugi) Yaalon says that the IDF will likely be demolishing hundreds of houses in Rafah, following the Supreme Court's decision to allow the measure. Yaalon added that the army has already marked structures to be torn down.

What are the pressing operational needs that require demolition of hundreds of houses? If the IDF has already marked the structures to be torn down, have the owners been informed, as the court insists is necessary for planned demolitions? Will they be informed?

Let's be clear about this. The smuggled arms are used for rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns inside the Green Line, not for attacks on settlements. There is no guarantee that Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would stop the smuggling or the attacks. Any Israeli withdrawal, negotiated or otherwise, will fail if the attacks on Israeli towns continue, because Israel would invariably launch retaliatory raids against Gaza.

However, as much as one might agree with the necessity of stopping the smuggling, it is obvious that the IDF is not telling the whole truth, and that the IDF is about to make thousands of people homeless, incurring the wrath of the UN and US, without really explaining why they are doing it, or why they are doing it that way. "Because I said so" is the usual sort of answer that sargeants give to privates, but it really won't do for an answer to the the US, the UN and the Israeli public, not to mention the Palestinians.

One wonders if anyone has considered alternatives to this brutal policy. Almost nobody is asking why Egyptians aren't being asked to stop smuggling from their side of the border. Nobody at all is asking why Israel cannot arrange for alternative housing for these people, perhaps by paying for new housing to be built further from the border.

Postscript: A few minutes after this entry was posted, an article appeared in Haaretz describing Israeli plans (late in the day) to ask for Egyptian and US help in stopping the smuggling, which has been going on for years. According to the article:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the cabinet Sunday that Israel has asked Egypt for assistance in
halting weapons-smuggling by Palestinian militants across the border into Gaza.

He also said he had asked the United States for help.

Israel Radio quoted Ya'alon as telling ministers that Egypt has done very little to prevent weapons
from being smuggled into Gaza from its territory.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 3 comments

you must be kidding if you think Egypt will help. they know what is happening on their side of the border and could have stopped it in a flash, but they are part of the problem, not the solution to it. our 'peace' with them is really nothing more but a long cease fire. in every other way they are our enemy. if destroying a thousand structures will save one Israeli life i'm all for it.

Posted by mike levine @ 05/16/2004 04:33 PM CST

The wanton destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza at a time when Israel contemplates abandoning its illegal occupation of the Gaza reinforces my belief that Israel is a military dictatorship, and poses a dangerous security risk to the United States, as well as the entire mid-east. The IDF needs to be brought under control.

Posted by Jon Buchholdt @ 05/17/2004 04:24 AM CST

i dont understand why israel just doesnt get out leave the arab areas alone
you know i got a friend who lives in abad neighborhood to feel safer he put up gates on his windows and got a reinforced door
i think the israelis should get out and put up a border fence around themselves even if the un says its not fair to build it

Posted by chuck @ 05/19/2004 08:19 PM CST

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