Ma'an News Agency
October 25, 2010 - 12:00am

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The Gaza government announced Monday that it has given directives to its interior ministry to raze what it has termed illegal structures on public lands and enforce previous orders to arrest those trading the land.

Head of the ministry's land department Ibrahim Radwan said those in violation of the order had been given a deadline which has now expired and that officers would maintain permanent checkpoints, supported by police, on public lands to prevent "any violation."

"From now on, those in violation of public land [use] will find no excuse," Radwan said but added that large amounts of public land had been earmarked for agriculture projects in coordination with the ministry of agriculture and for public housing projects.

Radwan said in the coming days, the ministry will begin enforcing a "wide-scale campaign" to remove structures erected or built on public lands without permission.

Gaza residents who do not own homes will be able to apply to the ministry of housing to opt in to the new residential projects, he said, "instead of violating public lands illegally. Those who attempt to oppose the removal of illegal structures will face punishment."

Similar demolitions began in mid-May in the southern Gaza district of Rafah, which the Palestine Center for Human Rights said displaced up to 20 families.

The Gaza government told the rights organization at the time that the homes were either built without the required permits or on public land, with police assisting in the demolitions' process, carried out the by Palestinian Land Authority.

The move sparked criticism and prompted comparisons between Hamas and Israel, where a home demolition campaign in occupied East Jerusalem continues, based on residents failing to acquire permits within a discriminatory system. Moreover, Israeli forces routinely destroyed down homes in the Gaza Strip when it maintained a full military presence in the coastal enclave until 2005.

"Hamas has proven to be identical to the Israeli occupation," Ahmed Assaf, a Fatah spokesman told Reuters.

Weeks following the demolitions, Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh gave orders to his interior minister to detain all residents found illegally selling public lands in Gaza.

The government's secretary-general, Muhammad Awad, said "a portion of public land in Gaza is being traded through illegal contacts from one citizen to another in an endless circle," a statement read, estimating that 800 dunums of public land are being unlawfully traded.

Awad said the Hamas-led government had allocated 3,414 dunums of land for housing projects to be undertaken by UNRWA and other organizations.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017