UN warns that creating a buffer zone in Gaza is a 'war crime'
Israeli tanks and armored bulldozers participate in the operation in the northern Gaza Strip on November 2, 2023. Photo: IDF

United Nations, human rights officials, warn that Israel’s plan to establish a security buffer zone in the Gaza Strip is a “war crime.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN) said on February 8 that since October 2023, many cases of the Israeli military destroying civilian buildings and civilian homes, including schools, have been discovered. Schools and universities are located outside the fighting area.

“I would like to emphasize to the Israeli authorities that Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the occupation force from destroying private property except where the destruction is a necessary part of a military operation. “, High Commissioner Volker Turk commented, referring to the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in war.

He warned that the idea of ​​building a security buffer zone around the Gaza Strip does not fit the definition of a “military operation” in international humanitarian law.

Mr. Turk emphasized that the indiscriminate destruction of civilian property for non-military purposes and without legal basis will be considered a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and a “war crime.”

Mr. Turk’s office in the past few weeks also recorded demolition activities of civilian homes in the areas of Beit Hanoun, Gaza City in the north of the Gaza Strip, Nuseirat in the central region and Khan Younis in the south.

The UN official said Israel did not provide a reasonable explanation for the mass destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Mr. Turk warned that the tactic of destroying homes and civilian structures across the Gaza Strip is threatening the lives of refugees, preventing them from returning home after days of fleeing fighting. He emphasized that international law also considers the act of “forcibly displacing civilians” during fighting as a crime.

Area where experts fear Israel may establish a buffer zone in the Gaza Strip (yellow).  Graphics: AFP

Area where experts fear Israel may establish a buffer zone in the Gaza Strip (yellow). Graphics: AFP

Experts and Arab countries are expressing concern that Israel has quietly established a security belt in the Gaza Strip, taking away a significant portion of the land area.

Professor Adi Ben Nun at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said that after the Hamas attack in early October 2023, Israel targeted structures within one kilometer of the border with Gaza. More than 30% of buildings here were damaged or destroyed.

Israeli officials and the country’s military have so far not commented on the suspicion that they are establishing a buffer zone in the Gaza Strip.

Israel took control of the Gaza Strip in 1967, then unilaterally withdrew its troops and people from the area in 2005. However, Israel still controls almost completely the border with the Gaza Strip and set up a narrow no-go zone along the border.