At midday on Wednesday 19 May 2004, the 2nd day of the Israeli offensive in Rafah, the total number of Palestinians killed is 24, including 7 children, and 50 injured. Ambulance movement is still obstructed. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights documented several cases of bulldozing of streets and numerous cases of destruction and damage of houses in Tel Al Sultan neighborhood.
IOF killed four Palestinians who left their homes complying with a military order by IOF today morning in the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported that 37-year-old Khalil Abu Al Saeed, 24-year-old Shadi Al Mghari, 13-year-old Sabir Abu Libdeh, and 24-year-old Usama Abdullah Abu Nasser were shot and killed in the streets of the neighborhood. Many others were wounded, too, including children.
At least 15 killed and tens of people injured, mostly children, as thousands of residents of Rafah decided to proceed to a peaceful march to Tel Al Sultan this afternoon. As the demonstration approached the outskirts of Tel Al Sultan, the IOF launched 2 missiles and opened fire on the crowd. The number casualties are increasing rapidly. This adds to the above mentioned 24 people who were killed during IOF’s ongoing operation.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced a state of emergency following the news of a massacre in a demonstration in Rafah in which 7 were killed. The Ministry called all the medical staff, of all kinds, to go to hospitals and clinics in their areas.
Earlier today, the Israeli army announced that IOF has started house-to-house searches in the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood in Rafah in search of for what they described as ‘militants’. Reports from the field have confirmed IOF’s ‘campaign of arrests, but no numbers are available at the moment.
IOF loudspeakers were heard in Tel Al Sultan calling all men over the age of 16-years-old to gather in a neighborhood school. Previous experience shows that this measure is usually taken before conducting house-to-house search and ID-check operations. Sources in Tel Al Sultan reported that IOF fired on men who left their homes after soldiers called them to gather in a school earlier today. Four men have been killed from IOF fire until 1:20 pm.
Loudspeakers also ordered men employed by the Palestinian Authority Police forces to ‘surrender at the police station’ in the neighborhood.
Since the beginning of IOF incursion yesterday, 99 children and their 18 teachers and workers, all of whom are women, have been detained in the orphanage run by the SOS association in Tel Al Sultan. Reports show that they have already run out of food supplies. The manager of the orphanage who lives in the premises with his family confirmed that IOF has opened fire on the orphanage at several occasions. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel have made contact with the IOF to evacuate them safely, but the situation has not changed until now.
The IOF broke into the house of lawyer Hisham Al Karzoon in Tel Al Sultan area. They separated men from women and conducted individual interrogations of the men in one of the bathrooms. Before they left, bulldozers destroyed one room on the ground floor of the house and arrested Muhammad and Ayman Al Karzoon.
A group of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations published an advertisement against IOF’s violations of Palestinian Human Rights in Arabic, English and the Herald-Tribune today.
The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a press release on IOF’s violations of humanitarian law in southern Gaza on 18 May 2004. ICRC called upon Israel to comply with International Humanitarian Law and to watch its obligations as an occupying power.
The United Nations Security Council has convened on Israel’s home demolitions and violations in Rafah. The Arab nations group and the US introduced two different Security Council draft resolutions. The Arab nations demanded that Israel immediately stop the demolition of homes in Rafah. Haaretz newspaper stated that the United States proposed major amendments aimed at balancing the resolution introduced on Tuesday. The U.S. draft calls on Israel to respect its obligations under international law, “including its obligation not to undertake demolition of homes as a punitive measure.” The Arab text, introduced by Algeria, the only Arab nation represented at the Security Council, condemns “the recent large scale demolition of homes committed by Israel” in Rafah where some hundreds have reportedly been made homeless. It also expresses grave concern “about the declared plans and threats by Israel, the occupying power, to demolish hundreds more Palestinian homes in the Rafah area.” Both the Arab nations’ and U.S. texts demand “the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, attacks, provocation, incitement and destruction.”
Israeli soldiers broke into the house of Fathi Zaqout in Tel Al Sultan area, destroying walls of the ground floor and taking control of the upper floor. The family said that soldiers made holes in the walls of the upper floor and are using them to fire on the area.
IOF broke into the house of Ayman Al Bayumi and made his wife and five children vacate the premises, while he is stuck in Gaza City due to closures. The house is currently being used by Israeli snipers.
Israeli soldiers took control of the 3-story-house of Abdul Sattar Abu Ghali, after destroying several walls in the ground floor and forced the family to stay in one room. IOF Soldiers arrested two men from this family.
In a very odd statement, Israel`s envoy to U.S. announced that some Palestinians dismantle their own homes to make it appear as if Israel damaged them during IOF’s raids and to petition for compensation. Al Mezan’s records however prove that Palestinians in Rafah kept living in their homes until IOF destroyed them. A similar statement was given by Israeli Ex-Minister of Defense, Benjamin Nen Eliazer in 2002, where Al Mezan provided poof that all the demolished houses were inhabited. Al Mezan’s fieldworker in Rafah visited the area and reported that not all the residents had evacuated their homes despite the rejection of petitions to High Court and the announcements made by Senior Israeli military and political officials.
IOF broke into the house of An Najjar family in Tel Al Sultan neighborhood and made the family evacuate a flat in the house. Snipers are using the flat to fire on the area, while the entire extended family is forced to stay in one room.
Reports from Tel Al Sultan say that tens of men have been arrested by the IOF. Al Mezan’s fieldworker confirms the arrests of about Khalid Al Bayumi, Wail Abu Ghali, Atif Abu Ghali and many others. The IOF has used certain detainees as human shields.
Eyewitnesses from Tel Al Sultan reported that Israeli soldiers are using children to dig holes in the walls of houses they control, which they use to fire on the area.
The Israeli Army Radio announced that two children, a sister and brother, killed yesterday in their home, died from an explosive device thrown at Israeli soldiers in Rafah. According to witnesses, however, they were killed from live bullets from Israeli snipers while they were trying to bring in laundry from the roof of their building. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has collected much evidence of similar intentional killings of Palestinian children and civilians in the past, in what the center calls ‘war crimes’ according to International Humanitarian Law.
Fifteen hours after Al Mezan and Physician for Human Rights-Israel requested the release of 4 first-aid staff who fled their ambulance yesterday, IOF allowed them to leave the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood.
A group of residents of Rafah petitioned the Israeli High Court Monday, requesting to stop expected demolition of additional homes in their area. The Court, for the third time, rejected their appeal to exert a ban on house demolitions.
Israeli Army spokesman said the IOF has demolished 60-70 homes in Rafah since the death of five IOF soldiers in Rafah last week. Media and human rights organizations have issued reports and shown pictures of wider-scaled demolition. Amnesty International described IOF’s demolitions as ‘a long-standing policy’ and a violation of international humanitarian law.
The Israeli press reported that the ex-chief rabbi, Mordachai Eliyahu demanded a ‘Cutoff of Palestinian utilities until those who killed IDF troops in Gaza handed over to Israel’.
UNRWA reported that it erected a camp of tents to habitat some 1,500 Palestinians who have recently lost their homes or been evicted in Rafah.
Hundreds of members of the Israeli organization Peace Now and other groups demonstrated yesterday evening in front of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. Demonstrators called for immediate halt of the Israeli army operation in southern Gaza Strip and called Israeli soldiers to refuse to take part in the military operations.
The General Secretariat of the Arab Gulf States Council condemned Israel’s brutal offensive on the Gaza Strip, especially in the south. It also called the International Community and the Quartet to immediately intervene and pressure Israel to stop its war crimes against Palestinians, and to take the necessary steps to ensure IOF’s withdrawal from Palestinian from OPT.
UNSCO Chief, Terrie Roed Larsen, said Israel must perform as an occupying power and uphold according to international law, especially in regards to the treatment of civilians under occupation. He also expressed his grave concern at the reported killings of civilians and especially children in the Gaza Strip.
The Government of the People’s Republic of China said it opposes Israel’s campaign of home demolitions in the Gaza Strip. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Israel to immediately stop its operation and for the two parties to go back to negotiations. The Ministry’s spokesman said China sympathizes with the Palestinian People and has decided to send relief aid to Gaza.
The President of the United States, Mr. George Bush told AIPAC that Israel has the right to self-defense and considered that Gaza is generating violence. Mr. Bush did not condemn Israel’s ongoing campaign of home demolitions.
U.S. sources said that U.S. is not likely to veto a UNSC resolution condemning Israel’s operations military in Gaza, today and that U.S. is disturbed by these operations. The U.S., however, is working to soften other proposed resolutions in the UNSC.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker documented the demolition of 13 homes by the IOF in Qishta area near the borderline in Rafah. This area is located four kilometers from Tel Al Sultan neighborhood where the IOF is currently conducting a military operation. These homes were inhabited by 15 families with 147 individuals. Four of these homes were damaged beyond repair while the other nine were completely demolished.
Sources in Tel Al Sultan say that IOF has damaged or destroyed about 35 homes in the neighborhood and bulldozed most of the street. The Center’s fieldworker is not able to reach the area, but is in contact with tens of people there.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel are contacting Israeli officials to ensure ambulance services for an injured Palestinian in Tel Al Sultan. The man has been bleeding for hours as IOF have restricted movement of ambulances and fire at people trying to approach him. The two organizations also requested ambulance services for two women who are about to give birth at home.
The Israeli army published a legal background on the home demolitions. The paper again, emphasizes the crucial need for home and other civilian structures demolition due operational necessity. Al Mezan has previously refuted the legal similar legal claims, as did Amnesty International and the ICRC.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported that Abu Yusif An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah decided to keep the bodies of the people who were killed over the past two days into a vegetable fridge until their families authorize their burial. The hospital said it has no capacity to keep this number of bodies in its very small morgue.
Despite intervention for several human rights organizations, two guard of a construction site remain stuck in their office container that was turned over by an Israeli tank yesterday.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in Rafah reported that Tel al Sultan resident, Shadi Al Mghari, was shot by IOF soldiers in the street after being ordered, as all men above the age of 16, to exit his house. Al Mghari, reached the hospital in a critical condition.