Out of sight, out of mind - a ploy Israel has often used with brutal effect, most recently today. With the media and world attention on Saddam's capture, Israeli occupation forces demolished 22 homes in a Gaza refugee camp, making over 200 people destitute (again). As shameful as this atrocity is the fact that if you followed British news coverage, you would be none the wiser.

The event was ignored, save for the last few paragraphs of an article on the BBC's website - it seems making Palestinian refugees homeless again is not deemed newsworthy, especially if there is news elsewhere. Israel has long been aware of this media flaw, and has honed it into a cruel art.

Contrary to Israeli claims that the buildings in the Khan Yunis camp were uninhabited and used "by Palestinian terrorist cells to launch mortar bombs and fire missiles" at Israeli targets, preliminary investigations conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) revealed that 178 Palestinian civilians (25 families) were left homeless. In addition, homes belonging to six families (approximately 40 civilians) have become uninhabitable.

The BBC, bizarrely, reported that "Palestinians said the structures were homes". Was the sight of children and the elderly trying to salvage furniture and belongings amid the rubble not proof enough that they were in fact homes, and that Israel's claims were false and deceitful?

The article [1] made no mention of Israel's occupation, the illegality of its house demolitions, why those in the camp are refugees, how long they have been dispossessed or where they are originally from - in effect, a news item completely devoid of essential facts and background information.

PCHR reported that according to eyewitnesses, the victims "left their houses when they heard the Israeli military vehicles approaching the area. During the operation, a number of houses were partially damaged by the shelling and Israeli forces destroyed a Palestinian National Security Force post and severely damaged the civilian infrastructure in the camp. PCHR's field worker in Khan Yunis reported that 9 of the houses had previously been vacated by the inhabitants following repeated damage and shelling by Israeli forces. However, the houses were routinely checked by their owners."

PCHR continued: "The extensive destruction to civilian property carried out wantonly and unlawfully without military necessity, constitutes grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR reiterates that the policies of retaliation and collective punishment practiced by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians also constitute violations of international humanitarian law, specifically article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

"PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to halt all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the OPTs (occupied Palestinian territories). PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to take concrete measures to halt Israeli war crimes in the OPTs. PCHR calls upon humanitarian organizations to provide urgent assistance to the victims of Israeli military actions carried out against Palestinian civilians and property."

Is anybody listening?

Note:

[1]. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3320737.stm