Rifling Through Fafah
International solidarity activist, Atif, sent this dispatch to SQUALL from Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
12th October 2003
During the night, Israeli occupation forces withdrew from the refugee camps in Rafah, which they had occupied since they first invaded the area on Thursday night. They left a scene of devastation in their wake. For the first time in two days, residents trapped inside their homes were able to leave. Anxious neighbours who had been denied access were able to check on their friends and relatives. Many families are now evacuating the area, fearing the army may return. Homes are being cleared of belongings.
The most recent casualty figures from contacts in Rafah (as of Sat 11th) are ten dead and 76 injured, including the ambulance driver who assisted Rachel Corrie after she was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. Yesterday, 19 year-old Zuky Alshareef was shot in the neck and killed on Kir Street in Yibnah. This is the same street where Tom Hurndall was shot on 11th April - six months ago to the day. A ten year-old boy was also shot dead yesterday on the Block 'J' section of Sharia Al Baha (Rafah's main street). Another youth died from the injuries he sustained during the first night's attack.
Below are details of the first day of the invasion taken from a report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR): Early this morning, Friday October 10, 2003, Israeli occupying forces conducted a large scale incursion into the Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border in the southern Gaza Strip. At approximately 12.00 midnight, more than 80 Israeli tanks, accompanied by military bulldozers and helicopters, moved approximately 300 metres into Blocks L and J of the Rafah refugee camp, which is one of the most densely populated in the Gaza Strip.
Under the cover of intense shelling by the tanks and helicopters, Israeli forces raided and took over several houses in the area, using them as military posts. At the time of writing, 6 people have been killed, including 2 children, and 38 civilians have been injured, including women, children, and elderly people. Bulldozers demolished approximately 10 houses in the attack, some completely and some partially, and there has been widespread destruction to buildings, roads and other aspects of the civilian infrastructure. Israeli occupying forces have imposed a strict curfew on the area. As a result of the severity of this operation, at the time of writing, it is not possible to provide conclusive figures for the number of houses and families affected by this attack.
During the attack, Palestinian ambulances were fired at while attempting to evacuate the wounded and one of the medics, Raja Salah Omer, 30, was shot in the back and is currently in a critical condition. Ambulances and medical teams faced severe difficulties in evacuating the injured to hospitals in other areas of the Gaza Strip, due to the severe closures currently being imposed on the entire area. The major hospitals are located in Gaza City and it is currently impossible to travel from Rafah to the north. The Gaza Strip is now divided into four parts.
The United Nations' reponse to the invasion: UN chief Kofi Annan condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians in a massive Israeli army raid in southern Gaza, saying the 'disproportionate use of force in densely populated areas is not compatible with international humanitarian law .'