Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 22 day offensive on the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 had a devastating impact on Gaza’s physical infrastructure.
The preliminary list of damage to civilian property includes:
·   2,400 homes destroyed, and at least 12,000 homes damaged.
·   60 police stations and 30 mosques completely destroyed.
·   21 private enterprises, including cafeterias, wedding halls and hotels.
·   28 public civilian facilities, including ministry buildings,             municipalities and          fishing harbours.
·   121 industrial/commercial workshops destroyed and at least 200 damaged.
·   5 concrete factories and one juice factory destroyed.
·   5 media and 2 health institutions destroyed.
·   29 educational facilities including schools damaged or destroyed.
·   Thousands of dunums [[i]]  of agricultural land razed to the ground. 
Israel’s destruction of property and land belonging to Palestinians has been a feature of its occupation since 1967 and is in clear violation of international law. It has also contributed to the steadily deteriorating humanitarian situation in the occupied territories.
Despite Israel’s withdrawal of its forces and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel remains in control of Gaza’s seas, external borders, and airspace. The Gaza Strip is defined as occupied territory in accordance with international law. Consequently, as the Occupying Power, Israel remains bound by international humanitarian law. The targeting of civilian property violates the most basic tenets of humanitarian law, and is explicitly prohibited by both customary international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. 
Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the targeting of civilian property, except where such destruction is rendered ‘absolutely necessary by military operations’. As the Occupying Power, Israel has specific legally-binding obligations towards the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. If the destruction of property is found to be disproportionate to the direct military advantage gained, this would constitute a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.
The systematic nature of Israel’s destruction of Palestinian civilian property and its use of heavy artillery, tanks and fighter jets against heavily populated residential areas has resulted in a disproportionately high number of civilian deaths and injuries, as well as extensive damage to civilian objects. The attacks are therefore illegal; they violate the principles of distinction and proportionality, and as such constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is calling upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfill their obligations under Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to prevent such crimes, as well as their legally-binding obligation in accordance with Article 146 to bring persons alleged of committing grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions to justice.
Najat in the remains of her bedroom. © Christian Aid / Sarah Malian