The Israeli occupation Forces (IOF) entered the western outskirts of Rafah at around 11:30 yesterday. Loudspeakers ordered all men over the age of 16 to leave their homes and gather in one place in the Abu Halweh neighborhood. The IOF are still in the area carrying out home searches and demolitions and are reported to have taken over Abu Halaweh building in the area.
Today, operation “Rainbow” has entered its fifth day. Israeli tanks are still blocking the streets leading to the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood and Al Brazil as well as the main street connecting Rafah and Khan Yunis. Israeli officials confirmed that IOF activity will continue and more expansion is expected. At least 43 Palestinians have been killed in Rafah by the IOF since the beginning of the operation. Another 112 people have been wounded. The humanitarian situation in the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood and other neighborhoods continues to worsen owing to the destruction by the IOF of the water networks, infrastructure (especially roads) and homes.
A 3-year Palestinian girl, Rawan Muhammad Abu Zaid, was killed by an Israeli sniper today in the Brazil neighborhood. Al Mezan’s fieldworker saw the girl and confirmed the medical sources reports that she died from two live bullets in her head and neck. In an interview with the girl’s uncle, he informed that Rawan was on her way to a grocery near the Taha Hussien School in Brazil neighborhood when Israeli tanks, which were stationed by the borderline in the area, opened fire. She was injured and died.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in Rafah reported to the Center that IOF is still in control of several tall buildings in the Brazil neighborhood in Rafah and is shooting at civilians.
IOF bulldozers started leveling land and greenhouses near the area under their control at the entrance of Tel Al Sultan neighborhood. Soldiers also took control of several buildings in the area, which is known as the Western Rafah.
Peter Hansen, the UNRWA Chief Commissioner visited the Brazil neighborhood in Rafah today. Later, IOF allowed the UNRWA senior official with several UNRWA staff members and journalists in the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood. Mr. Hansen described the situation of these areas as a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ and said he was shocked by the scene of home and infrastructure demolition. He also called IOF to stop its operation immediately to spare civilians’ life and to allow for the families of those killed by IOF in Tel Al Sultan to bury their dead, which are currently kept into flower refrigerators in Rafah. Following a meeting with many victims in the town, Mr. Hansen appealed to the international community to provide urgent aid to the town. He said UNRWA needs USD 35 million to rebuild the demolished shelters for refugees.
Al Mezan Center’s staff, in company of other human rights activists, entered Rafah with medicine donated by Israeli organization Physicians for Human Rights to Abu Youssef Al Najjar Hospital. During the entire time of the Israeli operations, the hospital has been the only available and accessible hospital to deal with the devastatingly high amount of deaths and injuries, despite its very small capacity. It has consequently suffered from severe shortages of medical supplies. The Center’s staff was kept waiting for two hours at the Abu Houli checkpoint before using an alternative sand road to reach the city of Rafah.
A Palestinian youth was reported dead today after he remained in the coma for 3 years following an wound inflicted by IOF on October 1, 2000.
British newspaper, The Independent, published an article 19 May on the IOF’s home demolition and other violations in Rafah. The article quotes the father of Asmaa and Ahmad Al Mghaiar, two children killed by Israeli snipers at their home. It also refers to Amnesty Internationals releases regarding IOF’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which pointed out that ‘out that Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully” is a “grave breach and hence a war crime’.
The United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, Kiran Prendergast, reported to the UNSC that ‘Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip is a violation of international law’. He reported that since the Intifada erupted in September 2000, about 18,000 people in the Gaza Strip had lost their homes. He also added that the UN agencies need about USD 32 million ‘to rebuild the destroyed homes,’ and that ‘UNRWA has managed to re-house 1,000 homeless people”.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights issued a letter to the President of the European Council today, in which the Center demands immediate action by the EU to bring an immediate halt to Israel’s escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and to dispatch international protection for Palestinian civilians and their property. The letter reports on the impact of IOF’s ongoing military operations in terms of human loss and damage to property, in addition to other collective punishment procedures.