Today 23 May 2004, the IOF “Operation Rainbow” in Rafah has entered its seventh day. Israeli tanks are still blocking the streets leading to the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood and are present inside the Al Brazil neighborhood by the borderline, as well as the main street connecting Rafah and Khan Yunis. Israeli officials said that IOF activity will continue and more expansion is expected. At least 44 Palestinians have been killed in Rafah by the IOF since the beginning of the operation. Another 120 people have been wounded. The humanitarian situation in the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood and other neighborhoods continues to worsen due to the destruction by the IOF of the water networks, infrastructure (especially roads) and homes. There are report about health risks due to mixed sewage and water in Tel Al Sultan neighborhood.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported that the damage incurred to property in Canada neighborhood in Tel Al Sultan, is as follows: 75 homes partly destroyed, occupied by 115 families. In all the cases, the furniture and belongings were damaged. 15 main and branch streets were destroyed including water, sewage, electricity and phone networks. 14 motor vehicles were destroyed; four of which were taxis generating income for families. The amount of $1084 of cash disappeared from houses that soldiers occupied and used during the incursion. About $2600 worth of gold and $2300 of small appliances such as mobile phones, cameras, and jewelry is also missing.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in Rafah reported that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) are still occupying houses and buildings in Abu Halweh neighborhood, east of the town. Home demolitions and land leveling have been carried out by IOF during the reporting period. A victim, Mr. Arafat Nassar Abu Halaheh informed the Center that IOF entered his 2-story-house after opening intensive fire on it at 12:30 pm Friday 21 May, 2004. IOF soldiers ordered him, his wife and their six children, as well as his brother’s family, who live in the same house, to leave the house within 15 minutes and return in one week. Abu Halaheh reported that IOF demolished his parents’ 300-square-meter-house and 4 dunams of planted greenhouses. They also destroyed two irrigation pools, an electric generator, a car (Subaru), two fertilizer pumps, and hundreds of boxes of tomatoes. The Center’s fieldworker reported that another 15 dunams of land were also leveled in the area and more agricultural equipment owned by Iyad Madi, Ramadan Al Hissi, Iyad Al Jourani and Talal Madi was destroyed.
At about 8 pm on Friday 21 May 2004, IOF entered the house of Naji Abu Udwan. IOF soldiers ordered the family to evacuate their home. The house owner told Al Mezan that soldiers talked to them through loudspeakers and that made sand barriers around the house occupying it.
At around 7 pm on Saturday 22 May, the IOF troops stationed in Abu Halaweh area moved into the Jneneh area and approached to a distance of 200 meters the Abu Yousef Anajjar Hospital. They pulled out after 20 minutes.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in Rafah reported that IOF entered the Brazil neighborhood and opened intensive fire on the area. Tanks have been stationed near the borderline in the neighborhood since they left the neighborhood two days ago.
On 22 May, the families of 16 of the Palestinians killed in Tel Al Sultan neighborhood expressed anger towards the IOF’s refusal to authorize them to leave the neighborhood to bury them. The IOF said to human rights organizations that only parents would be allowed to leave for the burial. Families demanded that, according to palestinian traditions, the extended families be allowed. In the past two days, Palestinians protested when the ICRC and UN agencies entered the neighborhood with humanitarian aid. They said they wanted to be authorized to bury their dead before receiving food supplies.
The Israeli army repeatedly announced that it did not restrict medical assistance from Palestinians who were wounded. However, in the course of Al Mezan’s monitoring and documentation of violations of international law, Palestinian eyewitnesses gave the following affidavits:
Affidavit given by Yihia Abu Al Ouf, educational supervisor from Tel Al Sultan neighborhood:
‘At approximately 10pm on Wednesday 19 may 2004, I was looking through the window of my house into the Al Nus street in Tel Al Sultan neighborhood. I was following the developments of the IOF incursion. We were so worried from the sounds of shooting and bombing. I saw my neighbor, Ashraf Abu Mar’i crossing the street and walking westward. Suddenly there was a sound of shooting. I saw Ashraf fall to the ground and I could see that he was bleeding. He was trying to crawl to a safe area and there was very intense firing. I saw dust rising from the spot where he was. He stayed in that spot for more than 15 minutes and the firing continued. A group of men, I could not count how many, from our neighborhood came from a close branch road and tried to pull him from the street. The finally managed to so and took Ashraf to a house. A neighborhood doctor was found, Dr. Mousa Khafaja, After about one hour and a half an ambulance came to take him to hospital.’
Affidavit given by Sameer Noufal, aged 30 from Canada neighborhood of Tel Al Sultan:
‘At approximately 7pm on Tuesday May 18, 2004, I was at my home in Canada neighborhood in Tel Al Sultan when I saw a friend, Abdul Salam Abu Iyada, crossing the street to his brother’s house, which is next to my house. I suddenly heard the sound of intensive shooting and saw Abdul Salam lying on the ground in the street. My brother, Ahmad was with me, and we shouted to Abdul Salam to try to reach us, as we knew that Israeli snipers, who were shooting, were stationed in the house of Abdul Sattar Abu Ghali close by. He managed to reach a branch street and we broke one of our house’s windows to get him inside. We called the Al Najjar hospital and reported his injury but no ambulance appeared. My brother, who is a nurse, called a surgeon and asked him what to do as Abdul Salam was badly bleeding from the abdomen. He could not stop the bleeding however; an ambulance reached us one hour and a half-later and took him. (Al Mezan called the hospital and it reported that the victim arrived at 11:10am; more than four hours after he was injured. They also said that IOF stopped the ambulance for a long time).
The acting High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a press release issued on 23 May that he was ‘deeply disturbed about the consequences of Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip, in particular in Rafah, and its disproportionate use of force in densely populated areas’. He denounced the IOF’s use of helicopters and tanks ‘to fire into a crowd of civilians during a peaceful demonstration, resulting in numerous deaths’. He also he also pointed to ‘reports from the ground according to which since 10 May 2004, dozens of Palestinian civilians have been killed and several hundred others injured,’ and that ‘more than 200 civilian properties have been destroyed or damaged, leaving thousands homeless and destitute’. He said IOF’s ‘extensive destruction of property, a form of collective punishment, is in flagrant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law’. He called Israel to ‘abide by its obligations as an Occupying Power, to respect international law and to stop immediately the disproportionate use of force in the Gaza Strip’. Additionally, he emphasized that ‘all civilians and their property are protected at all times,’ and that ‘even when there are security-related considerations, there is no such thing as a license to kill’.
Three independent United Nations’ human rights experts of the Commission on Human Rights issued a statement yesterday echoing concerns the events in Rafah. In their statement, they echoed ‘the profound concerns expressed by the Security Council of the United Nations in its resolution 1544 and by the acting High Commissioner for Human Rights about violence and loss of life during the peaceful demonstration in the Rafah refugee camp of the Gaza Strip on 19 May 2004. The demonstrators were denouncing human rights violations during a massive operation by Israeli forces that included the demolition of houses’. They urged the Israeli Government to ‘fully respect the right to life, to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly of the people of Rafah’ and stated that ‘no action derogatory to these rights of the civilian population is justified under any circumstance’. They also urged the Israeli Government to ‘comply with international human rights standards, in particular to enforce strict limits to the use of lethal force by security forces as stipulated in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms’, and to ‘fully respect its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.’
Israeli Justice Minister, Yosef Lapid, says that the demolitions of Gaza homes is inhumane and not Jewish and that the IOF must stop them. Israeli media reported that debates occurred in the Israeli cabinet meeting today, where Mr. Lapid criticized home demolition. Haaretz newspaper reported that Mr. Lapid said ‘at the end of the day, they’ll kick us out of the United Nations, try those responsible in the international court in The Hague, and no one will want to speak with us’.
Eyewitnesses reported to the Center that the IOF created a new detention center at the borderline in Rafah where they keep about 60 Palestinians arrested since the beginning of the ongoing military operation. A person who was released from this Center said that IOF arrested him and took him through the borderline to this center. He also said that the new detention center is run by soldiers and that he, and many others were tortured during the interrogation.
Peter Hansen, the UNRWA High Commissioner, said in a press conference in the UNRWA Headquarters yesterday that he does not think there were ‘smuggling tunnels’ in the homes that IOF demolished during “Operation Rainbow”. He said he does not imagine that there are tunnels in the homes in Brazil, which are far from the borderline. Mr. Hansen also said he feared that the IOF would target the newly built refugee camp in Tel Al Sultan neighborhood, which UNRWA built to shelter Rafah refugees whose homes were demolished earlier. He also expressed his concerns at the lack of land and funds for UNRWA to rebuild homes.
Abu Hasan, an eyewitness from Tel Al Sultan neighborhood, said that he saw the IOF destroying civilian infrastructure. ‘This is an army that fights water and sewage networks’, he said in an affidavit to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. He said it was very odd to hear Israeli reports mentioning big amounts of arms and smuggling tunnels and said IOF’s behavior in Tel Al Sultan showed wanton collective punishment.
Karmela Mansh, from Israeli Radio B, cried while she was reported live from Al Brazil neighborhood today, 23 May, on the conditions of Palestininians in the area. She also confirmed that she did not see any tunnles or collected weapons.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in Gaza interviewed a Palestinian child who arrived at Shifa hospital after he sustained wounds in Rafah. Hamad Mahmud Al Neirab, who was born in 1993, said that he was in the march to show solidarity to the people of Tel Al Sultan neighborhood on Wednesday 19 May 2004. ‘I was in the front of the march when it arrived at the Zourob Crossing and saw 5 Israeli tanks stationed by the police point about half a kilometer from the crossing. There were helicopters, too. Tanks started to fire at the march and people moved in different directions. I heard a huge explosion, followed by several others, and felt sick and fell down. A man, came to help me and took me to an ambulance. I was awake all the time in Annajar Hospital. They took me to the European Hospital and, then, to the Red Crescent Hospital. Then I was taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. After two days, I knew that my leg was extracted. I think I was wounded from the second bombing.’
List of the Palestinians killed during IOF’s 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)
- Rawan Muhammad Abu Zaid (Saturday), 3, Two live bullets in the head and neck;
- Muhammad Samy Al Hams, 16, Wounded on 1 October 2000.