GAZA CITY — The Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza have destroyed more than 20 homes claiming they were built without permits, a Palestinian human rights group said on Wednesday.
"Twenty families -- about 150 people -- lost their homes," the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said in a statement.
It said the houses in the southern city of Rafah were destroyed by police on Sunday "because they were built on government land."
Two more houses under construction were destroyed on Monday in nearby Khan Yunis, PCHR said.
It warned that 180 more homes could soon be razed in Rafah and urged Hamas to "put an end to all house demolition operations," adding that most of those affected were poor people whose homes were previously destroyed in Israeli attacks.
Some residents complained that police had hit them with batons during the demolition operation.
Mohammed Awad, a Hamas official, said the decision was taken by a court and not the government.
An overcrowded coastal territory, the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, ousting forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.