"House demolition is a method utilized by the Israeli army (IDF) in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip against Palestinians and in some cases Israeli settlers.
Demolition may be done to enforce building codes and regulations, which in the occupied Palestinian territories are set by the Israeli military. IDF explanations for other house demolitions include use as a counter-insurgency security measure to impede or halt militant operations House demolitions are also claimed to be a potent deterrent against terrorism, in significantly decreasing Palestinian terrorists attacks. Human rights organizations and the United Nations criticize the ongoing demolitions of Palestinian homes as violating international law, and Amnesty International has contended that the Israeli government actually uses demolitions to collectively punish Palestinians and to seize property for the expansion of Israeli settlements. Theodor Meron advised the Israeli government in 1968, soon after the occupation of the Palestinian territories in the Six Day War, that the practice contravened international law, in particular the Geneva Conventions."
The United Nations (UN) and human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross who oppose the house demolitions reject the IDF's claims, and document numerous instances where they argue the IDF's claims do not apply. They accuse the Israeli government and IDF of other motives:
- Collective punishment, the punishment of an innocent Palestinian "for an offence he or she has not personally committed."
- Theft of Palestinian land by annexation to build the Israeli West Bank barrier or to create, expand or otherwise benefit Israeli settlements.
In 2004, Human Rights Watch published the report 'Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip'. The report documented what it described as a "pattern of illegal demolitions" by the IDF in Rafah, a refugee camp and city at the southern end of the Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt where sixteen thousand people lost their homes after the Israeli government approved a plan to expand the de facto "buffer zone" in May 2004. The IDF’s main stated rationales for the demolitions were; responding to and preventing attacks on its forces and the suppression of weapons smuggling through tunnels from Egypt."
The use of house demolition under international law is today governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention, enacted in 1949, which protects non-combatants in occupied territories. Article 53 provides that "Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons ... is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."
However, Israel, which is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, asserts that the terms of the Convention are not applicable to the Palestinian territories on the grounds that the territories do not constitute a state which is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention. This position is rejected by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, which notes that "it is a basic principle of human rights law that international human rights treaties are applicable in all areas in which states parties exercise effective control, regardless of whether or not they exercise sovereignty in that area."
From Wikipedia on "West Bank."
"Israel's peace treaty with Jordan and the Oslo Accords, did not change the status of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as occupied territory with Israel as the occupying power. . . .In 1982, as a result of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, the direct military rule was transformed into a semi-civil authority, operating directly under the Israeli Ministry of Defense, thus taking control of civil matters of Palestinians from the IDF to civil servants in the Ministry of Defense. The Israeli settlements were on the other hands administered subsequently as Judea and Samaria Area directly by Israel."
In fact, one can make the argument that the occupation itself it unlawful. See "legal status" at the West Bank article from Wikipedia. If the occupation is unlawful under international law, then the demolitions are unlawful.
Although the actions are carried out by military forces, the West Bank is an occupied territory, but not a war zone in the usual sense of the word. Of course, one can argue that there is a 'war on terrorism." The 1967 war which led to the occupation is long over. Any analogy to Sherman's march to the sea during the Civil War is not warranted.