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IDF Forces Occupy Gaza Homes and Then Burn Them Down

“Setting fire to homes belonging to noncombatant civilians … is forbidden under international law,” Haaretz points out.

Firefighters intervene after a fire breaks out following an attack on the home of the Al-Tavil family as Israeli attacks continue in Az-Zawayda within the Gaza Strip, on December 27, 2023.

Israeli troops invading the Gaza Strip are occupying and then burning Palestinian homes there, apparent war crimes that follow literally incendiary calls by some Israeli leaders to “burn Gaza” — actions and words under consideration in the South African-led genocide case before the International Court of Justice.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Wednesday that IDF soldiers have burned hundreds of Gaza homes and everything in them, on direct orders of their commanders. Some Israeli troops have posted videos on social media showing them taking part in home burnings and describing their actions as revenge for fellow soldiers’ deaths or the October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel.

Israeli forces have also occupied homes, according to the newspaper. In one case, soldiers spared a home so that other IDF troops could use it, leaving a note reading, “We are not burning the house so you can enjoy it, and when you leave — you’ll know what to do.”

According to Haaretz:

Until last month, the army’s combat engineering corps mostly used mines and explosives, and in some cases heavy machinery such as D9 bulldozers, to demolish structures. Setting fire to homes belonging to noncombatant civilians, for the mere purpose of punishment, is forbidden under international law.

The U.S. has recently appealed to Israel, demanding that its forces stop destroying public buildings such as schools and clinics in Gaza, claiming that continuing to do so would harm the everyday life of Gazans who seek to return to their homes after the war.

An analysis reviewed by the BBC found that at least half of all buildings in Gaza — between 144,000-175,000 structures — have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli forces since October 7. This has been a major factor in the displacement of what the United Nations says is more than 90% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, and has prompted debate by experts over whether Israel is committing domicide, or the systemic destruction of homes with the objective of rendering Gaza uninhabitable.

Previous reports have documented Israeli troops burning humanitarian aid supplies including food meant for starving Gazans, vandalizing Palestinian businesses, and ransacking homes.

IDF troops have also burned homes in the illegally occupied West Bank, where settlers from expanding apartheid colonies have also attacked Palestinian people and property. For decades, Israel’s policy of destroying the homes of relatives of Palestinian resistance fighters has been condemned as illegal collective punishment.

Several Israeli leaders including Deputy Knesset Speaker Nissim Vaturi, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, have called for the destruction, burning, and even nuclear annihilation of Gaza. Some of their statements have been entered as evidence in the South African-led genocide case against Israel at the ICJ in The Hague.

According to Palestinian officials and international humanitarian groups, Israeli forces have killed, wounded, or left missing more than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem since October 7.

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