3 years ago, on 11 January 2009, Hassan Al Najjar’s (62) house in Khuza’a village was destroyed by Israeli forces. This happened during the Israeli offensive against Gaza , codenamed ‘Cast Lead,’ a 22 day military assault on the Gaza Strip that resulted in a massive amount of destruction and fear: “I cannot even begin to explain how this affected me. I am in total shock. I had put great effort into building that house. 14 years of hard work, and in 5 minutes it was all on the ground.”
Hassan’s house is located approximately 500 meters from the Israeli border. This is near the buffer zone, a military no-go area that was proclaimed by Israel to exist between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip adjacent to Israel , but inside Palestinian territory.
In 2009, Israel announced that the buffer zone would extend 300 meters into Gaza, although in reality it can extend as far as 1,500 meters . The buffer zone is often enforced using live fire, which results in the loss of Palestinian lives, land and property.
After Operation Cast Lead, Hassan, his 2 wives and their 12 children moved to a rented house in Abassan village, east of Khan Yunis, and gradually began rebuilding their lives. 2 months ago, they started reconstructing their destroyed home.
However, just 2 weeks ago, on 14 June 2012, at around 2:30pm, the house was bulldozed again by Israeli forces: “Our two story house was in the final stages of reconstruction. In fact, there were workers in the house when Israeli forces began approaching the village. The workers saw the bulldozers coming and ran.”
No prior warning was given by Israeli forces of the impending attack on Hassan’s house: “They had warned the ICRC that they would destroy a school- Shuhada Khuza’a- nearby, but they extended this destruction to my house.”
No explanation has been provided as to why only Hassan’s house was attacked on 14 June 2012.
Hassan is not the only Palestinian who has had their home destroyed near the buffer zone: “There are people whose houses were taken down before. It was like a nightmare watching it happen to other people, but the real nightmare began when they destroyed my own house.”
This attack has had a negative effect on Hassan and his family: “I have to rent two separate houses for my 2 wives and the children. It is not like before, where we could all live together in one big house. The family has been split up.” This has resulted in an even heavier financial burden for the family.
Moreover, nothing could be salvaged from Hassan’s house. The cost of the loss of his property is estimated to be USD 45,000: “I will not be able to re-use any of the construction material and I will also have to pay a lot of money to have the debris removed when I start building again. Luckily, the house was empty though, so I do not have to replace furniture or personal items again. I am lucky though that I can rebuild, when the time comes.”
The destruction of Hassan’s house also sheds light on the reality that, owing to the closure, building materials remain unavailable or too expensive in the Gaza Strip: “It was not easy to reconstruct the house. It was very hard to find the building material. The cement available in the market is also of very poor quality. I really had struggled to find the material to rebuild my house.” This home, which he struggled to reconstruct, was easily destroyed by Israeli forces.
Hassan still maintains that, irrespective of the risks involved, he will try to reconstruct the house yet again: “It is my land. I will keep rebuilding, even if I do it 1000 times. Nobody can explain my suffering regardless of the number of words that are said or written. I just need to gather my strength for now, but I will build my house again. In spite of everything that is happening now, I am confident that I will be living under one roof with my family again someday.”
The direct targeting of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2) (b) (ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Similarly, under the Fourth Geneva Convention Article 53, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.
The subsequent enforcement against private property in the buffer zone results in the violation of numerous human rights provisions, including the right to adequate shelter contained in Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
To see a video narrative given by Hassan Al Najjar please click here