A Christian Aid delegation has been fired upon by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the Gaza Strip.
The fact-finding team was visiting Rafah in the south to see the extent of the destruction from last month’s military incursions. Sarah Malian, communications officer for the Middle East, says she saw the impact of bullets three meters from where she was standing.
‘We were all very shaken,’ she said. ‘I can’t believe they fired at us. We were clearly civilians. We were surrounded by children at the time.’ The shots were fired as the delegation was looking at the wall at the end of the newly cleared Israeli ‘security zone’, with two IDF watchtowers in the distance.
Two days later a group of British MPs and peers also came under fire in the same place.
Much of the section, called the Brazil area of Rafah, has been demolished by Israeli tanks and bulldozers. People who have lost their homes are living with relatives or in rough tents slotted in between the wreckage.
There is only a single road to Rafah which is controlled by Israeli army checkpoints. It is difficult for people - including foreign observers - to get to the area. Sarah Stewart, part of the Christian Aid team, says: ‘The message appears to be that the Israeli army wants no witnesses. We can leave to ask questions and tell the story; Palestinians cannot.’
Christian Aid supports humanitarian projects in Gaza, helping farmers whose land has been destroyed by military incursions, working with children in refugee camps and funding mobile health clinics.
The destruction in Rafah has directly affected Christian Aid’s work. A women’s coordinator for the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees told how her house was surrounded by tanks and part of it demolished in the May incursions. Medical teams left their clinics to provide emergency assistance.
Christian Aid will be making a formal complaint about the shooting incident on the delegation’s return. Contacted by Christian Aid regarding the incident, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, after several requests, met the delegation in Jerusalem.