Protection of Palestinian Refugee Camps

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip have been subjected to indiscriminate and targeted attacks by Israeli military forces. As of 31 March 2001, UNRWA had identified nearly 250 refugee shelters in Gaza that had been damaged as a result of Israeli shelling. In the West Bank, some 424 refugee families have received assistance from the Agency to repair their damaged shelters.

Recently, these attacks have assumed a particularly brutal character reminiscent of earlier Israeli attacks on Palestinian refugee camps. In early April, Israeli military forces shelled Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in an attack called “Operation Enjoyable Song.” Around 30 refugee shelters were demolished leaving 50 families (approximately 500 persons) homeless. In the early morning hours of 2 May, at least 17 homes were demolished when Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered Brazil quarter, a refugee neighborhood near Rafah Camp in southern Gaza. In both attacks a Palestinian refugees, including children, were killed and injured.

These attacks orchestrated by the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon follow in a long line of attacks lead by Sharon against Palestinian refugees. These include a 1953 attack on Bureij refugee camp in Gaza in which as many as 43 refugees were killed, the mass demolition of refugee shelters in Gaza in the early 1970s which left around 900 refugee families homeless, and the 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut in which several thousand refugees were killed.

Refugee camps are universally acknowledged to have a strictly civilian and humanitarian character. Attacks on refugee camps, including attacks on refugees and destruction of property, are expressly prohibited under international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law. Even in cases where a combatant in a conflict is within a refugee camp, it does not deprive the refugee camp of its civilian character.

Over the course of many decades the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council have considered measures to provide for the physical protection of Palestinian refugees and civilians, including recent recommendations of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Commission of Inquiry. As early as 1967, the United Nations was requested to send international protection forces for Palestinian refugees. With each new attack and massacre committed against Palestinian refugees, the UN once again returned to the issue of protection. In many cases, promising initiatives were either voted against or vetoed by the United States. This includes recent draft resolutions submitted to the UN Security Council in December 2000 and March 2001 to establish an international protection force in the occupied territories.

The recent brutal attacks on Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip provide more than sufficient evidence of the urgent need for physical protection for Palestinian refugees. This is particularly so, if these attacks are viewed within the context of a long history of Israeli attacks on Palestinian refugee camps.

At minimum, the UN Secretary-General should begin to monitor and observe the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and submit a report to the UN General Assembly every four months on ways and means for the protection of Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation as required by UN Security Council Resolution 681 (1990).

Secondly, the United Nations must respond immediately to the recommendations submitted by the UN Commission on Human Rights, Commission of Inquiry. The March Report of the Commission explicitly recommended that an adequate and effective international presence needs to be established in the occupied Palestinian territories to monitor and regularly report on compliance with human rights and humanitarian law and ensure full protection of the human rights of the people of the occupied territories. plano moving companies

Finally, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention must immediately convene in order to establish an international mechanism for the protection of Palestinians in the occupied territories, including refugees, and to decide on measures, individual and collective, to ensure Israel’s compliance with its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Conventions.

For more on physical protection of Palestinian refugee camps see BADIL Occasional Bulletin No. 6 (May 2000)