The Guardian News
International legal experts raise concerns about Gaza destruction
The destruction of over a third of Gaza’s homes due to continuous bombings by Israel has prompted international legal experts to address the concept of “domicide” – the mass destruction of dwellings to render an area uninhabitable.
The ongoing war in Gaza, which began after the 7 October attack by Hamas on southern Israel, has resulted in the damaged or destroyed of approximately 40% of the housing in the region. This has left 1.8 million people internally displaced within Gaza, many living in overcrowded UN shelters.
Experts are now questioning whether the extensive infrastructure damage is a result of hunting down Hamas members or a covert plan to forcibly remove Palestinians from Gaza, eliminating the possibility of the area becoming a viable society in the foreseeable future.
“Domicide”, a concept increasingly acknowledged in academia, is not a distinct crime against humanity under international law. However, independent experts believe that a crucial protection gap needs to be filled.
Mass destruction of homes has occurred in conflicts such as the Syrian civil war, the flattening of Rohingya settlements in Myanmar, and the destruction of Mariupol in Ukraine, causing an increased focus on the issue.
The UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, has stated that it is necessary to address hostilities that systematically destroy civilian housing and infrastructure, rendering entire cities, like Gaza City, uninhabitable for civilians.
Rajagopal stresses that international law has a gap when it comes to addressing the mass destruction of housing in Gaza, and calls on countries that oppose such actions to address the protection gap and ensure that the mass destruction of housing in Gaza can be prosecuted.
The destruction of homes, according to Rajagopal, suggests that the purpose is not just to eliminate Hamas, but to make Gaza uninhabitable, and Israel has defended its actions, stating that it is making every effort to warn citizens of imminent attacks.
Estimates of the level of destruction of Gaza’s buildings remain disputed, and new use of satellite imagery suggests that 98,000 buildings had been damaged as of 29 November. This reflects the difficulty of mapping the true scale of the bombing.
Among the buildings destroyed or partially destroyed are the main Palestinian court in Gaza, the Palestinian Legislative Council complex, numerous education facilities, and places of worship, as well as a significant number of hospitals that are not functioning.
Leaks from inside the Israeli government show officials have been examining ways to force Palestinians to leave Gaza, either voluntarily or forcibly. However, the US has repeatedly ruled out such a policy.
As the conflict continues, the mass destruction of homes in Gaza has prompted international legal experts to address the issue and calls for a response to the protection gap under international law.