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Israeli army committing 'domicide' by destroying Gaza homes

Gaza war: Israel committing 'domicide' by destroying homes, infrastructure
4 min read
30 April, 2024
Among the prominent Israeli army units to destroy Gaza's homes is the 8219 Commando battalion, who openly proclaim their destruction of thousands of buildings.
Gaza is becoming increasingly uninhabitable due to the destruction of thousands of homes by Israel [Getty/file photo]

The UN estimates that it could take 14 years to clear the 37 million tonnes of debris in the Gaza Strip, according to a report released by the global body earlier this week.

Every square kilometre impacted by war in Gaza contains 200 kilograms of debris, the report said, adding that investigations had revealed Israeli forces' systematic destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, leaving over a million people displaced.

"All I can say is that at least 10 per cent of the ammunition that is being fired potentially fails to function…with 100 trucks we’re talking about 14 years of work with 100 trucks, so that’s 14 years to remove with about 750,000 workdays - person workdays - to remove the debris," Pehr Lodhammar, a senior officer from the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said.

The UN’s statement came after an investigation by Bellingcat showed that Israeli soldiers were guilty of "domicide", a term which describes the deliberate, systematic and widespread destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure in a bid to render them unhabitable.

Throughout the war in Gaza, the Israeli army has repeatedly bombed homes in a bid to kill Palestinians and damage and destroy residences, as well as other buildings, including mosques, hospitals and universities.

Professor Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, told Belllingcat that every building which has been destroyed in Gaza has to be "evaluated legally", meaning that the Israeli army needs to provide evidence and proof that an attack on a building was "proportionate and necessary".

Over 60 percent of all homes in Gaza, equivalent to 290,820 housing units, have been destroyed, the World Bank said in a report earlier this month, leaving over a million people without homes.

At least 1.7 million are displaced, mostly in the southern city Rafah, which borders Egypt. Many have been forced to live in overcrowded conditions and in flimsy tents.

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The Bellingcat investigation looked into the 8219 Commando unit, an Israeli combat engineering battalion, who have been responsible for blowing up a significant number of buildings in northern Gaza, Gaza City and around Khan Younis

The investigation was supported by evidence the battalion shared on social media, which documented and "justified" their actions, as well as reactions.

Among their social media posts include two soldiers infamously lighting up a cigarette and seemingly laughing as two buildings explode behind them in January this year.

In another post, the battalion's captain said: "We've become addicted to explosions."

The 8219 Commando is responsible for blowing up numerous buildings thought November, December and January, having often used mines to blow up the buildings.

The battalion often justified destroying buildings based on claims that they were homes to "terrorists" or were "warehouses for explosive devices".

They also described their reasonings for destroying buildings as "taking land from the enemy" and "destroying the villages of murders".

In other instances, as found by Bellingcat, the soldiers said their motives for destroying buildings include "revenge".

Some even gave religious reasons, with the battalion’s captain talking of using 400 mines to demolish a residential area "in honour of Shabbat".

In a tour video from the battalion shared on social media, the 8219 Commando claimed that they destroyed "49 tunnels and 662 buildings in 84 days of fighting". In an interview with Scripps News, a partner of Bellingcat’s, one soldier said that his unit "blew up the most amount of houses in Gaza" up until they left.

The 8219 Commando captain, in a Facebook post in January, claimed that unit destroyed "thousands" of buildings in Gaza.

The UN has repeatedly stated that "the systematic and widespread destruction of housing, services and civilian infrastructure represents a crime against humanity", in relation to the acts carried out by the Israeli army.

Israel has waged a deadly military onslaught for over six months in the Gaza Strip, killing 34,488 Palestinians - mostly women and children. Israel's atrocities have been described as amounting to war crimes and genocide by rights groups and several governments.