UN: Israeli Effort to Create a Gaza ‘Buffer Zone’ Is a War Crime

The Associated Press news agency analyzed satellite imagery on February 2, which showed “new demolition along a 1-kilometer-wide path on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.” The images, which revealed the recent destruction of Palestinian farmland, warehouses and other buildings, suggested that Israel had started creating what it has called a “buffer zone” in areas of Gaza adjoining the Israeli border.

The destruction of houses in Gaza Streep made by the Israeli occupation army, February 8, 2024 (Photo: WAFA)

However, according the United Nations the ongoing destruction of all buildings along the border inside Gaza with the aim of creating the “buffer zone” is a war crime, in a statement last Thursday, the United Nations rights chief Volker Turk pointed to reports that the Israeli occupation army is working inside the Gaza Strip to destroy all buildings within a kilometer of the border fence with Israel with the objective of creating a “buffer zone.”

Turk warned that the objective of creating a buffer zone for general security purposes did “not appear consistent with the narrow ‘military operations’ exception set out in international humanitarian law.” He added that such “extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that since October, his office had recorded “widespread destruction and demolition by the [Israeli military] of civilian and other infrastructure.” This included “residential buildings, schools and universities in areas in which fighting is not or no longer taking place,” he said. He said such demolitions had also been seen in Beit Hanoun and Gaza City in the north of the besieged Palestinian territory, and the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza, while numerous residential buildings had reportedly been demolished in Khan Younis in the south in recent weeks.

“Such destruction of homes and other essential civilian infrastructure also entrenches the displacement of communities that were living in these areas prior to the escalation in hostilities,” he warned. In fact, he said, they appeared “to be aimed at or [to have] the effect of rendering the return of civilians to these areas impossible,” he said, adding: “I remind the authorities that forcible transfer of civilians may constitute a war crime.”

Israeli leaders have signaled that they would like to establish a buffer zone as a “defensive measure,” and Israeli army has not officially stated that it is creating such a zone, though it has acknowledged demolishing buildings throughout the area.

Racist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on last November for a ban on Palestinians harvesting olives close to settlements on occupied West Bank, and advocated for the creation of “buffer zones” and “sterile no-go areas” prohibiting the presence of Palestinians in the vicinity of the settlements and major roads that lead to them.

Related: https://maki.org.il/en/?p=31566