Palestinian homes demolished by Israel as a form of collective punishment

A destroyed building in Gaza, August 2022 A destroyed building in Gaza, August 2022 Mohammed Ibrahim via Unsplash

Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes as an act of collective punishment, in violation of international law

On Thursday 8 June 2023, Israeli authorities demolished the Ramallah home of Islam Faroukh, a 27-year-old Palestinian suspected of terrorism but not yet tried. This reignited the debate over Israel's long-standing practice of demolishing the homes of Palestinian suspects.


The demolition of Palestinian homes has been a practice since 1967 and it does not involve a trial before it is carried out. In most cases, the alleged perpetrator is no longer living in the house at the time of demolition, having been killed or arrested. The policy of punitive demolitions therefore harms people who have done nothing wrong and whose only crime is to be somehow associated with alleged Palestinian aggressors against Israel. This practice violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the punishment of a person for a crime not personally committed, collective punishment, intimidation and terrorism, and reprisals against persons and property. The Israeli state and the Israeli High Court of Justice argue that the demolition policy is not punitive in nature, but is intended to deter Palestinians from planning or carrying out attacks. Their denial of its punitive nature is a denial of its violation of international law. The State of Israel has never provided any data proving that house demolitions deter Palestinians from carrying out attacks. On the contrary, an Israeli military commission found in 2005 that the policy's effectiveness as a deterrent was questionable and that it caused more harm than good. This led to the suspension of punitive demolitions for almost a decade, only to resume them in 2014 following the abduction and murder of three Israeli students in the West Bank.

According to B'Tselem, 290 homes were demolished between 2004 and 2023, leaving 1,384 people homeless, including 189 minors. Demolitions lead to a significant deterioration in living conditions, increased poverty, and long-term insecurity. The impact of demolitions can be particularly devastating for children, with many showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.

"There is no justification for the Israeli authorities to deliberately punish the families of Palestinian suspects by demolishing their homes and throwing them out into the street," said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, which has accused Israel of human rights violations and war crimes in connection with punitive home demolitions.


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by Elena Ricci

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