Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons […] is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949), Article 53
Section 119 also violates the rules of international law applying in territory under belligerent occupation, which prohibit the destruction of private or public property, except where rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. However, the demolition of houses as a means of punishment is not a “military operation.” International law also explicitly prohibits collective punishment of the population under occupation, and also prohibits acts of reprisal and the use of intimidation.
Except for rare cases, the High Court of Justice rejects petitions filed against house demolitions, and refrains from questioning the position of the security forces that the demolition of houses deters Palestinians from committing violent acts. However, over the years, the petitions have achieved some results. The HCJ has set limitations on the exercise of the broad discretion given to the military commander, by requiring him to issue a detailed Demolition Order that states the reason for the demolition, its scope, and the source of authority for the demolition. Furthermore, the HCJ has required that the occupants of the house be given an opportunity to be heard before the house is demolished, and to appeal to the HCJ of Justice if the military commander rejects their arguments. In addition, if the right to be heard is not granted prior to demolition, the legal advisor for the
Despite the rulings of the HCJ in these matters, many houses of Palestinians have been demolished as a punitive measure although no demolition order was issued, and before the occupants were allowed to state their arguments opposing the demolition, and without even giving them the opportunity to remove their possessions. In addition, the demolition of houses has resulted in damage to nearby areas and adjacent apartments, houses and structures.