A person cleaning up rubble, with destroyed buildings in the background.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Demolishing the future: Property Destruction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

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Ongoing and increasing violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) by Israeli authorities in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem continue to threaten the protected Palestinian population. As the rate of demolitions across the West Bank, and especially in East Jerusalem, climbs, so too does the pressure on the rest of the Palestinian population who are increasingly subjected to a coercive environment that is comprised of new laws, regulations, and orders designed to facilitate the demolition of structures and ultimately result in forcible transfer, which is both a violation of IHL and a war crime.

In addition to the coercive environment that forces Palestinians from their land, the Israeli government is pursuing the expansion of settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law. These violations and the accompanying political rhetoric prevalent in Israeli politics raise anew the spectre of de jure annexation of significant portions, if not all of the occupied Palestinian territory.

These violations have consequences for both the perpetrators and third states. The Government of Israel continues to perpetrate well-documented violations of IHL, and in particular the destruction of property, some of which may amount to war crimes and could expose individual military commanders, government personnel, and others to international criminal liability under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute and other regimes of universal or extraterritorial jurisdiction in third states. While the Government of Israel cannot escape liability for the violations and breaches it has already committed, it has a responsibility to cease those violations and to make reparation for them.

Third states remain bound by their obligations under the Geneva Conventions and general international law to take steps and measures to end the systematic violations perpetrated by the Government of Israel against the protected Palestinian population and the integrity of the occupied Palestinian territory. For those violations to which individual criminal liability attaches, namely “grave breaches” of the Conventions which constitute war crimes, third states have a responsibility to search for, investigate and prosecute those who are liable. This obligation should be undertaken urgently.

Third states should also urgently undertake their international legal obligations with respect to ending the numerous other violations of international law perpetrated by the Government of Israel. These include the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, ongoing settlement activity, the maintenance of the unlawful planning regimes in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, the forcible transfer of protected Palestinians from areas in the West Bank (facilitated by the coercive environment), the transfer of settlers into the oPt, the entrenchment of the ‘Separation Wall’, and the undermining of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Failure to take concrete measures and undertake concerted cooperation to end these violations will have long-term consequences for the future of the Palestinian people and the viability of the protections afforded under the international legal system.