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Switzerland: Israeli house demolitions violate Geneva Conventions

Nov. 15, 2008 4:01 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 15, 2008 4:01 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an/AP - Switzerland accused Israel of war crimes on Thursday, particularly of violating the Geneva Conventions, in its destruction of Palestinians' homes.

According to the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Israel illegally demolished homes near Jerusalem and Ramallah in recent days. Switzerland demanded that Israel immediately stop the demolitions.

Israel claims the demolitions are just removals of unauthorized shacks. A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, told the Associated Press (AP) that removing the homes was "not an arbitrary decision," but one permitted by an Israeli court.

"This demolition of houses was done under a court order," embassy spokeswoman Shlomit Sufa told the AP on Thursday.

But Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel said the demolitions violated the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which outline an occupying force's rights and responsibilities during wartime. The Foreign Ministry claimed Israel's house-demolitions policy violates the Fourth Convention, in particular, which prohibits occupying powers from damaging property belonging to the occupied.

Since 2000, Israel has destroyed over 600 homes in East Jerusalem and nearly 2000 in the West Bank, according to a formal protest lodged with the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Switzerland said that, as a neutral country, it "regards the recent incidents as violations of international humanitarian law."

There is "no military need to justify the destruction of these houses," the Foreign Ministry complaint added.
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