The Crimes of War: Between Al-Zeitoun (Gaza) and Rafah

Tamar Gozansky is an former member of the Israeli Knesset and a member of the political bureau of the Israeli Communist Party. She visited Gaza on 19 May 2004: “Attention is now drawn to the Israeli war crimes committed by the IDF in Rafah on May 19; especially to the numerous victims of the shelling by Israeli tanks of a civilian demonstration, mostly youth and children, at high noon. I watched the horrific live TV images of wounded children, youth running for shelter and smoke rising from the shelled location, in the company of the head of the Palestinian Internal Security in Gaza City, Rashid Abu Shbak, alias Abu Khatem.” 

"...the Apaches are shelling us right now"

“…the Apaches are shelling us right now, many many fragments and parts of injured people everywhere in the area. I wasn’t able to identify the body of my relative who was killed. They brought him to the hospital in parts and fragments. I can’t beleive how Hani arrived like this, can’t can’t really can’t — why did they shell him with a group of children — why? — I don’t know why, God why is this?!! ” Mohammed, a student and amateur reporter in Gaza, e-mailed this account of the attack on Rafah during Friday’s attack. 

One Year Later: No one sees and no one hears

“My family and I will never forget March 16, 2003, the day we lost our dear friend Rachel Corrie. A volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Rachel lived with us in Rafah as if she were a member of our family. She helped us even when we did not need help. She tried to bring optimism and happiness into our lives.” Dr. Samir Nassrallah is the pharmacist whose home in Rafah Rachel died to protect. In this article, he recalls the day Rachel was killed and speaks about what happened in the aftermath of the tragedy. 

One Year Later: "Rachel, my mother"

One day, I was going to the Children’s Parliament in Rafah and a young American woman attracted my attention. Her name was Rachel Corrie. She talked to me about my fears and the problems of security we children and our nation face. I was surprised by the fact that Rachel was trying to comfort me. As Rachel worked with the parliament, I understood that she wanted us to be able to have our voice heard in the outside world, particularly in America, to show how much we are suffering. She said she loved children and how she feels sad for them when they are killed. And from that time, we became good friends. Yasmine Abu Libdeh writes from Rafah. 

One Year Later: Rafah remembers Rachel's kindness

“When she died, my friend Rachel Corrie left us grieving in immense pain. Now a year has passed since she was killed and we still miss her deeply. I still remember her lovely spirit, strong personality and laughter as if she were still around. In Rafah, every shop, street, and devastated refugee camp has a living memory of her kind smile and gentle voice. Her death meant an incredible amount to me personally and to every Palestinian who knew her, as well as those who did not know her. It was a terrible shock to everyone in Rafah.” Mohammed Qeshta writes from Rafah. 

Return to Rafah: Journey to a land out of bounds

” I left for Rafah on 11 January 2004 as part of a three-person pilot delegation to the city. We represented the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, an organization founded in February 2003 to establish people-to-people ties between our two communities. Sistering projects are well known in Madison, Wisconsin —a Midwestern University town north of Chicago. Madison has official, City Council-approved sister cities with El Salvador, Nicaragua, East Timor, Cuba, Vietnam, and Lithuania among others. It seemed time, some of us thought, to build ties with a city in Palestine.” Jennifer Loewenstein reports on a trip to Rafah. 

Getting the hell into Gaza

Following the suicide bombing at Erez Crossing that left four Israeli soldiers dead and several Palestinian workers injured, Erez (at the north of the Gaza Strip), and Maabar (the other way in and out of the Gaza Strip, on the border of Egypt), have been under tight closure, with crowds of people waiting for days to be let through. Here are excerpts from a letter home from one of the delegation as they were attempting to enter. They are an excellent description of the great extremes the Israeli is going to in order to keep out international eyes. Laura Gordon introduces the trials of one group trying to get into occupied Gaza. 

And the world sleeps

Oh goodness, I went to the souq (“market”) today with Mahmood’s mother. She woke me up at 8:30am instead of 6:00am while I lay in bed for two hours imagining the day to be later than it was, floating between nightmares and day dreams. So I got dressed and we walked out, Saturday morning 9:00am, sunshine painting the streets and the asbestos roofs and the mothers like sun-dried raisins elbowing their way to this or that stand to haggle over prices. She stopped me here at this jilbab or that jacket, announcing the prices so proud of a certain bargain you would think she herself was selling the goods this morning. 

Arab and Jew: Being young in a troubled land

“Khaled is 19 years old but he comes across as being much older. He is very tall and slim but his face exudes experience and wisdom. Despite his quiet demeanour, he displays confidence and independence that was learned from growing up in a difficult situation. Khaled is great at dealing with people; he can be soft and kind to children but at the same time strong against those trying to take advantage of him. I have met few with a better understanding of life than Khaled. He understands and accepts the bad as much as the good in life and really understands how the world works.” ISMer Melissa recounts conversations with Palestinians and Israelis. 

Picking Up the Pieces

Where the rubble once filled the streets it has now been pushed to the side, clearing the way for cars and people trying to go on with their daily lives. Everywhere twisted remnants belie their attempts to continue on life as normal. Twisted pieces of metal, once the support of houses, puncture the piles of crumbled, sterile, grey concrete that line the streets. Children play in the bombed out remains of houses where families once lived. Everywhere skeletons of houses remain, here and there one or two walls standing in a pile of debris. Melissa writes from Rafah.