Today, the IOF redeployed in the town of Rafah, leaving most of the populated areas. Israeli tanks are still seen around these areas however, blocking the streets leading to them. IOF spokesmen, as well as Israeli political officials said the operation in Rafah was still underway. As of 11 pm Friday at least 42 Palestinians have been killed in Rafah by the IOF, which stormed into three neighborhoods in the town in the operation that started at 1 am Tuesday 18 May 2004. Another 112 people have been wounded. Israeli sources announced that “Operation Rainbow” would continue and that IOF forces would invade other sections of Rafah shortly. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood and other neighborhoods continues to deteriorate and is causing a mounting humanitarian crisis owing to the destruction by the IOF of the water networks, infrastructure (especially roads) and homes.
International aid agencies, including the ICRC and UNRWA, today successfully entered the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood with food, water and medical supplies. A group of trucks transporting kept waiting at the entrance of the area since morning was finally allowed by IOF to enter. Al Mezan’s fieldworkers, as well as other sources, reported that the residents of Tel Al Sultan neighborhood did not provide a warm welcome to the aid teams.
A resident of Tel Al Sultan neighborhood contacted al Mezan and reported Israeli forces prevented the wounded from getting help, causing them to bleed to death. Residents of Tel as Sultan criticized the international community for its silence in the face of war crimes.
Initial field reports from the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood, which has been the scene of an IOF incursion during the past few days, describe the neighborhood as a disaster area.
Eyewitnesses reported that they saw Palestinian men who had been shot by snipers lying on the ground for hours without help, even though residents called ambulances. The names collected by the Center included: Abdul Salam Abu Iyada, Muhammad Majid Msallam, Ali Khalifa and Sabir Al Haw. The latter died in the street after he sustained an injury in his neck. In other instances, eyewitnesses saw IOF soldiers shooting at ambulance staff and civilians as they tried to collect wounded people.
The IOF commandeered numerous family homes, particularly those in taller buildings in the neighborhood, causing enormous damage to the walls and furniture. Snipers used these homes as lookouts from which to shoot at people during incursions. A number of these homes were documented by the Center as owned by: Samir Khalifa, Sharif Rusrus, Muhammad An Najjar, Jamal Al Bayumi, Nafith Al Umwasi, Sba’a Awad, Hisham Al Karzoun, Mamhud Abu Hilal, Fathi Abu Ghali, Muhammad Abu Qoura, Ayman Al Bayumi, Zyad Aqil, Ahmad Younis, Abdul Sattar Abu Ghali, and Nadheer Al Luqa. These buildings requisitioned by the IOF are usually several stories high and consist of numerous homes for extended families who find themselves detained in one room of the building during the IOF’s occupation. In some cases, soldiers have dug holes in the walls and have torn up ground stones to use them as barriers.
Initial reports conclude that seven streets in the neighborhood were completely demolished. Their exact location and other information is available at the Center.
An eyewitness reported that an armored bulldozer destroyed a civilian car. By hitting it with its claw before carrying it away. Also a municipal staff member was wounded and his car destroyed as three municipality maintenance staff were working on the repair of a water-well in Canada block.
An Israeli TV 10 reporter said that the IOF’s claims regarding the destruction in Rafah are false, and that the scale of destruction was beyond belief.
Israel’s operations in Rafah generated great international condemnation today. The governments of Russia, South Africa, Pakistan, Japan, Turkey, Ukraine and Mexico issued statements that strongly condemned the operation and called upon Israel to stop its violations against Palestinian civilians. Also, Doctors Without Borders called upon Israel to stop targeting civilians and their homes in Rafah, and to ensure the safe passage of medical teams and relief aid into the areas under siege. The organization said that its own teams were obstructed by IOF.
An Al-Mezan fieldworker, who managed to enter Al Brazil and As-Salam neighborhood, reported that the IOF caused widespread destruction to the infrastructure and homes. In interviews with the victims, a number of residents reported that bulldozers started destroying their homes while aware that people were still inside.
Residents of Rafah said that many IOF snipers are still located in the taller buildingsin Rafah as military presence continues. Eyewitnesses reported the presence of tanks, APCs and helicopters, in addition to armored bulldozers.
Israeli human rights organizations petitioned to the Israeli High Court to conduct an investigation into the IDF tank shells fired at Rafah protesters, which killed 8 people on Tuesday. They also petitioned the court to stop the IOF’s prevention of medical supplies and staff from entering Rafah, and to stop cutting off electricity and water to the city’s residents. The Israeli army said it did not obstruct medical assistance during its operations in Rafah. Al Mezan has kept a record of the names and relevant information related to medical teams that were either obstructed or attacked by IOF during the incursions. This includes firing at obviously marked ambulances, blocking way of an ambulance and burying parts of it with sand by bulldozers, and not allowing medical staff to evacuate an area under IOF control for long hours following the targeting of their vehicle. The Center has also collected records of Palestinians who were shot by IOF and denied ambulance services for hours, causing deaths.
The United Nations Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs said today that the IOF’s demolition of homes in Gaza is a gross violation of international law.
Amnesty International asked Israel to ‘promptly carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the killing of eight Palestinians, four of them children, and the injury of dozens of others by the Israeli army during a demonstration in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on 19 May 2004’. The organization said in a public statement today that its own delegates ‘were in the vicinity of the demonstration at the time of the incident’ and that they did not see any Palestinian armed men in the civilian demonstration and they that ‘did not hear any Palestinian fire prior to or following the Israeli army shelling’. The organization also said that it was imperative that a ‘thorough and independent investigation be promptly carried out by the Israeli judicial authorities’, especially in light of ‘a pattern of inadequate investigations or lack of investigations into unlawful killings and excessive use of force by the Israeli security forces resulting in death or injury to Palestinians’. It continued to say that the ‘scope, methods and findings of the investigation must be made public and those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice’.
An Israeli human rights organization B`Tselem, which focuses its work on monitoring human rights violations in the OPT, said today that IOF destroyed 62 homes in Brazil and As Salam areas of Rafah in last 48 hours. Further, Al Mezan’s fieldworker visited the area today and said that the number could be much higher and as he reported 61 homes that were completely destroyed or damaged beyond repair and 35 others partially destroyed in the two neighborhoods. In the areas closer to the border, where IOF tanks are still stationed, there are numerous other demolished homes, but the figures are still unknown. Approximately 1,115 previously occupied the documented demolished homes.
List of the 42 Palestinians killed in IOF’s first and second days operation in Rafah:
- Muhammad Khalil Al Jindi, 24, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Walid Mousa Abu Jazar, 27, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Muhammad Abdul Rahman An Nawajha, 27, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Hany Muhammad Qufeh, 17, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Tariq Ahmad Sheikh Al Eid, 24, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Ibrahim Ismail Al Bal’awi, 18, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Ismail Al Bal’awi (previous person’s father), 45, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Muhammad Jasir Al Shair, 17, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Ahmad Jasir Al Shair (previous person’s brother), 18, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Zyad Hussain Shanana, 22, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Imad Fadel Al Mghari, 34, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Mahmud Ismail Abu Touq, 34, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Yousif Zahi Qahwash, 25, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Saeed Ibrahim Al Mghaiar, 23, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Muhammad Abdullah Darweesh, 27, Missile shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Ahmad Muhammad Al Mghaiar, 13, A live bullet in the head;
- Asmaa Ahmad Muhammad Al Mghaiar, 16, A live bullet in the head;
- Muhammad mas’ud Zourob, 33, A live bullet in the abdomen;
- Ibrahim Jihad Al Qun, 17, A live bullet in the head;
- Taysir Zaki Kaloub, 31, A live bullet in the abdomen;
- Shadi Fayiz Al Mghari, 24, A live bullet in the abdomen;
- Usama Abdullah Abu Nasser, 24, A live bullet in the head;
- Sabir Ahmad Abu Libdeh, 13, A live bullet in the head;
- Khalil Hasan Abu Saad, 37, A live bullet in the chest;
- Walid Naji Abu Qamar (Rafah march), 10, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Muhammad Talal Abu Shaar (Rafah march), 20, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Alaa Msallam Sheikh Al Eid (Rafah march), 20, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Mahmud Tariq Mansour (Rafah march), 13, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Fuad Khamis Al Saqqa (Rafah march), 31, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Mubarak Saleem Al Hashash (Rafah march), 10, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Rajab Nimir Barhoum (Rafah march), 17, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Ahmad Jamal Abu Al Saeed (Rafah march), 18, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Mahmud Jamal Al Mghari (Thursday), 21, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Hamid Yasin Bahlul (Thursday), 18, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Mahmud Fathi Deib (Thursday), 22, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Mahmud Najeeb Al Akhras (Thursday), 18, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Wail Muhammad Abu Jazar (Thursday), 18, Shrapnel in different parts of the body;
- Jamal Awad Al Assar (Thursday), 39, A live bullet in the head;
- Muhammad Ibrahim Jaber (Thursday), 27, A live bullet in the abdomen;
- Tamer Youniis Al Arja (Thursday), 3, Trauma following missile attack near his home;
- Khalid Abu Anzeh (Thursday), 37, Shrapnel in different parts of the body (found dead after 15 hours).
- Ahmad Salih Abu Syam (Friday), 45, A live bullet in the abdomen (injured on 15 May)