Reports from Rafah - Palestine

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24 September

The IDF broke into Rafah Camps, and especially in Yebana camp about 500 meters from the border line. It was a different night. The soldiers seemed to forget their fingers on their triggers. Shooting continued more than two hours and a half. More than 7 people were injured. They were among the victims who had left their homes that had been attacked as they were sleeping. Most of them got out in their sleeping clothes because there was no time. One minute waiting meant that they would get demolished with their houses. It's the same every night like that..

In that attack about 16 people were injured. Mohamd Hamdan, a 13 year old, was killed. He was injured with one bullet in his leg, and when he tried to walk the soldiers shot him again. Three hours later they found him lying dead near his house. Monir Kasas, 14 years old, was surrounded by tanks and bulldozers as he was holding a white flag to show the soldiers that he wanted to leave the house, but they still shot him and he fell on the ground with his white flag which was mixed with his blood. The soldiers began shooting using canons that are normally used to damage huge buldings and houses. They shot about 8 people who were then transfred to the Europena Hospital in Gaza. Most of the injured lost some limbs.

A very large number of houses have been demolished by the time the IDF tanks withdrew. The families went to see their homes, and found most of them demolished with all their furniture and belongings. The families as usual began sleeping in tents, flats and in UNRWA schools&

This crime just came a few hours after a game that Israeli soldiers had been playing: it was an entertainment game when the soldiers began sniping the Tal Al Sultan Primary School. They shot an 8 year old student and a teacher. In addition, more than 25 students were transferred to the hospital because of tear gas as a result of that entertainment game. Israeli soldiers decided to close the school and naturally it is closed now. Even if it opens again the children would prefer not to go when there is shooting directed against them.

Sorry, I have no pictures to attach to this report because my camera was broken in one of the attacks last week.

18 - 19 September

I broke my camera when I fell down as I was running, and am now limping.

Now it's 4:20 in the evening, Tuesday, two white Israeli trucks brought new tanks and bulldozers from Khan Younes City. The shelling just began five minutes ago. It was directed towards cars and citizens who were walking in the streets in Tal Al Sultan area in Rafah City, south of Gaza Strip.

Sixteen tanks and 6 bulldozers just arrived right now, at 12 midnight in Block J in Rafah, the people as usual were sleeping despite of shelling, shooting, lack of water and other environmental problems. Now two Israeli Apaches just came into the Rafah sky with the other watching plane which can't be seen, as this one didnt leave the Rafah sky every night for the past 3 years. Now I see the sky full of shelling. It has become red. People are rushing, children are crying, and women are rushing out quickly from their houses wearing their sleeping clothes. Ambulances are coming, and I see the faces of people terrorized, yet also relieved that help is coming now. I dont understand why people are leaving their homes. When I asked one of the people what was happening, he was running away quickly
as he said to me one word: "Incursion." This word means that the IDF will attack the houses and demolish them.

I am trying to go to see other families. Now, I see a child about 6 years or so, just crying
and shouting saying, "Mother, mother!!" His mother wasnt with him, but she was running in front of him about 10 meters. She said, "Ala'a come on, come on, come on. I'm here come on." She was running and running and leaving her child who still saying "mother, mother, mother."

The shelling began and the people were all running more and more. Even the ambulance men was leaving the area because of the shelling. Now it's about 12:50 a.m., and a very
large explosion just occurred. Now I can't write anything because the electricity was just cut out when they bombed the house situated about 250 meters from the border line which divides Rafah and Egypt. I can't see anything now. No light. Just the light of the bulldozers and the light of the bullets in the sky. It was a very tough moment because everyone was leaving the area, including the relief agencies and the journalists.

At 2:30 we heard shelling and shooting in another area called Hai Al Salam neighborhood,
and also in Al Brazeel refugee Camp. Rachel's Corrie parents are in this area visiting the families whom Rachel had visted before when the Israelis killed her. There were also another 16 tanks and 3 bulldozers, I Block J area. I cant write or describe and take pictures without electricity, so I intend to come back and see the result of the Israeli attack in Block J when the light comes back on.

Now I moved to Hai Al Salm and Al Brazeel refugee camps which is also under attack. I found a group of soldiers attacking houses and shooting furniture, in addition to checking every things in the houses. All the people in Rafah area are not sleeping now, because it's hard to sleep with shelling, shooting and bombing. Now a very loud explosion occured. It
was a rocket that they shot into one of the buildings in the Camp. The shelling and shooting are continuing till this moment which is 4:00 o'clock in the morning. The IDF Apaches just withdrew but the watching one is still in the sky. The shelling from the tanks are going on and on, and people who are living in other houses are just sitting in the streets because it is hard for them to sleep while Israeli bulldozers are demolishing houses.

Now, it's 4:40 in the morning. Israeli bulldozers and tanks are withdrawing. I intend to go and see what they did, but it's hard because I know that they put explosives after they leaft the area so it will kill the people who came after them and saw what they did. I went to Block J.. now, I'm going to Block J again, as this area has no electricity, so I can interview people and take pictures from the area, but I found the Israeli bulldozers still demolishing trees and working inside the iron wall which is the border that they have been creating for the past two years.

Now it's about 6:20. The Israeli bulldozers and tanks just left now, and also the watching plane just left with them.. But when I moved a few meters to the area where they had been, I noticed there was one tank which had no sound and no movement. The tank noticed the families coming back to see their houses and what had happened to them, so the tank shot about 4 or 5 bullets, and in less than one minute they all left again. When I heard the sound of the bulldozer leave I went again and saw the people returning once more.. There were about 5 people who were before me in the areas, two of whom were women. I saw a
woman shouting and saying 'my house!', and she fell down on the ground. I went quickly to her and found her on the ground weeping because she didnt find her house. It was rubble.

Ambulances, journalists, photographers and everyone else just came to Block J area. I just began to write again. The ambulance driver found an injured man, a 24 year old taxi driver called Ramzi Al Raie. He had injuries in his head, belly, and in different parts of his body. Another was also injured called Abu Yousif Al Najar. Doctors described his injuries as very serious. Also there were two houses demolished in this area, and another which was a factory that made cement for buildings. The factory belonged to Al Hlkawi family from Rafah, Block J. Also, the houses that were demolished belonged to Majdi Shaut and Samer Abu Naja from West Rafah.

Now it's 7:30 and I see an 11 year old child called Ahmed wearing a black blouse and red shorts. He wasn't wearing any shoes. He was busy trying to get something from the
rubble. When I asked him what he was doing he answered: "I want to get out my bicycle from the rubble." I asked him if he went to school, he said: "Yes". I said to him now it's 8:45 and you didnt go to school yet, so why is that? He said "Because I lost my school bag and clothes in the rubble when the Israelis demolished our house."

During this time the UNRWA officers just came to record the families whose homes had been demolished in order to deliver them tents and food. Also now I see many journalists who were reporting and interviewing people. I'm asking the woman whose house had been
demolished, why they demolished her house, and what were her feelings. She answered me in tears saying: "We had been living in this house for more than 20 years now, and now, in a few hours we lose it all. All our dreams have gone by this bulldozer! They demolished our houses because they are building a new border here. They demolished more than 24 houses in the last four days, and two of them belonged to our relatives. They demolished them while we were living in them, and they are saying because of tunnels, but we dont have tunnels. We are a family who is far away from tunnels, about 250 meters from the border line and they built the border line, so why did they demolish our house? Is that because we have no human rights like other countries? Where are human rights? You are all saying human rights and journalists talking about it and repeating it every day, so is demolishing our house one of the human rights that you all speaking about?"
I promised to deliver her massage out of Palestine.

The children are trying to get some things from the rubble but they can't because everything has been demolished and turned to rubble. Now there are a few members from the International Solidarity Movement. They can not do any thing to protect people because they also get targeted since the Israelis killed the American girl, Rachel Corie, and the British man Thomas Hundrel, and the British cameraman James Mellaer.

Now, many hundreds of people are living in small rooms in streets and tents. This is because of the large number that has been increasing every day, as many hundreds of people search for flats to rent instead of their houses that had been demolished, but they couldn't find any appartments because they are all full.

14 September

Fatema Al Kahteeb School for Refugee Students for Girls: it was a very different moment in this school when the IDF bulldozers and tanks attacked Rafah Camp and demolished more than 17 houses, three of which 3 partially demolished. Eight people were injured, one of them seriously, and was transferred to Al Najra hospital in Rafah. At that time, the students were in their second class when the IDF began shooting. The children left their schools and ran back to their homes. The same thing happened three hours later in Tal Al Sultan area, when the IDF soldiers shot teargas and the classes of the Tal Al Sultan school, where there are many students under 12 years old [primary school] and all had difficulty breathing.

Also today Sunday, in the early morning about 4 o'clock, more than 15 tanks and 3 bulldozers attacked Block J area in Rafah, and demolished 7 houses, and 7 others were partially demolished. This crime came after less than 48 hours when they demolished another 17 houses. The houses that were demolished today belonged to these families: Shat, Al Najdai, Awaja, Barhoum, Abu Hasnin, Al Najar, Al Hums and Al Jazar..innocent families that lost their house in less than 2 hours.

Israeli bulldozers can demolish any house they want. In today's attack, they demolished also the walls of Raba'a Al Adawia primary school for refugees. This is an UNRWA school which has thousands of students. They demolished the water system networks and the telephone connections in the same area. When I asked the people about this crime, I didnt find the usual answer. They just said: "They demolished houses in our area for no reason while the media is focusing on other issues, because it seems that they are in denial of the Geneva convention that support human rights."

Also, today: It is Sunday, 7 o'clock: as usual all the students are supposed to go to their schools, but they found that the schools are closed because there are several protests and demonstrations. One of the demonstrations was against IDF crimes in Rafah, and the others were to support president Yaseer Arafat.

10 September

It is 11:20. I just arrived right now to Rafah coming from Gaza and found the Abu Holly checkpoints closed. Hundreds of cars were waiting and the soldiers did not allow them to enter to their cities and homes. It is hard, really hard to move around. Many people were sitting in every place where there is some shade: tree, walls, and car shades. I went to the first cars, and taxies, to see why the IDF soldiers were blocking the roads. I held my pen and began writing and describing what was happening. The following is what I wrote:

I see 5 Israelis jeeps full of soldiers, and two trucks( red and blue), two bulldozers and many soldiers in the land. The soldiers were working and building new checkpoints. They are creating cement blocks. It is really very hot here and I feel the sun really burning me. Students are carrying their books and they have them on their heads to protect themselves from the hot sunshine. Many people are sitting near me on this cement block near the bulldozers. I am trying to find a shade so I can sit and write and describe what I see, but I can't find any because people are everywhere. Most of them are silent, just waiting to cross this checkpoint.

The soldiers are still working now. Two jeeps just came and asked the people to go away. The soldiers began shooting 4-5 bullets in the air, but the people are still sitting, and no one moved. The soldiers got out of their jeeps and shot a teargas. I cannot write any more. It's too bad, and I have to leave this area because it will harm my eyes.

I moved a few meters, then the soldier shot another 5 teargases. It hurt my my eyes again, and I have been unable to write or open my eyes for the past five minutes.

Now I opened my eyes and I saw people still putting their hands on their eyes and rubbing them. It is as though they were crying. But this one women made me sad. She cannot walk because she is an old women, so she fell down from the teargas.

The soldiers got back to their work with the trucks and bulldozers. Now I looked to my right and I saw some farm land that was recently occupied. I turned to the left. There was a group of cars for settlers and Israelis, walking very fast ways. I was listing to the man sitting next to me asking for water. I'm very thirsty too and didnt drink since the morning. It is now 2 o'clock. Everyone is asking for water.

Now a women with her baby child were sitting in one of the shaded areas and she is asking for water for her child who was just waking up from sleep. She is asking everyone for water but she didnt get it. People are trying to get water or buy it, but no one is selling their water. I hear the old man sitting next to me saying to one of the people: "is there any other occupation in the world that deals with people this way?" The other man answered: "yes, we hear about that. It's here in Palestine, where there is an international war against Palestine." One of the other people interrupted and said: "Where are the kind people to see us here at this checkpoint that humiliates us in this manner?"

He did not complete his sentence because they began shooting other teargas, and again, all people began running. This time the teargas broke the window of an orange Hyundai car and peole ran out of it. Gas entered in another white truck and the driver ran out.

The first cars are two ambulances which have two people who need to be in the European and Nasser hospitals.

Now Branine, a journalist for APnews, got many pictures of the bulldozers and tanks. The soldiers shot the teargas and he was the first one to leave the checkpoint because of the teargas.

One of the people just saw me writing and introduced himself. He was from Human Rights Center, and he interviews people. He asked one of the people about the checkpoint, and the man asked him who he was. When he told him he was from the Human Rights Center, the man asked: "are there human rights these days in Palestine?"

Now I see an 11-12 year old child wearing a black jeans. The child was getting closer and closer to the checkpoint and everyone was shouting at him to come back but he didnt answer. The soldiers shot a bottle of teargas, and the child carried it and threw it again at the soldiers. I think it was hot in his hand. The soldiers are hurrying and they got into their jeeps after their eyes got burnt from the teargas that the child threw at them. A woman began shouting to the child and saying Mustafa Mustafa. She is his mother. He came back to his mother.

Now, it is 8 o'clock. I can't write and describe any more because of the dark. As in the other right I see thousands of lights where settlers and Israelis are working, while the other side where Palestinians are sitting we can't turn on lights because it is not forbidden. I hear people complaining to each other and trying to call their families to tell them that they will not come home tonight and that they will sleep at the checkpoint.

At 11 pm, the bulldozers just came and opened one of the cement blocks and they permitted the first cars to enter. Some people finally passed the checkpoint, but others will spend the night here.

6 September

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5 September

There is a large number of houses now that have been and it seems the media is no longer interested in what is happening to the homeless families. More than 20 tanks and 5 bulldozers attacked the Rafah area, in Tal Al Sultan which is close to the beach. Two houses were demolished in that attack: Omer Abu Brika's house (41 years old), and his relative's house which had housed more than 4 families. Hundreds of acres full of olives and orange trees were also demolished last night, in addition to a very big area of agriculture homes. Ahmed Biriak's home and Farouk Burika in Rafah. Thoria Birika's home, also in Tal Al Sultan, had more than 60 olives trees demolished from her garden. In the same attack they demolished half the Sindibad wedding party hall, in addition to demolishing other olives trees belonging to Abu Shalouf family. Eyewitness said that the bulldozers were shooting towards the UNRWA clinic situated in Tal Al Sultan.

Also in yesterday's attack, the IDF soldiers opened their heavy canons against civilians people and shot Basam Rosros, a 32 year old, and seriously injured him. Ahmed Khader was also wounded but not seriously. It was a very sad night full of shelling and shooting everywhere from the tanks and bulldozers. The shelling continued until the morning.

I interview Ahmed Douheir (30 years old), and asked him how his house was demolished. He answered:

"Our house is near the border line. When the IDF began to build the border line in 10/06/2003 a group of Israeli bulldozers, and in less than 20 minutes, they demolished our house which was the only house for me and for my children and my brothers. At the same time they demolished my uncle's house Abdel Karim Douhair. It was three floors. They also demolished my other uncle's house, Abdelhadi Duhair, which was four floors. Now, I just come back everyday to see the rubble of our house as you see me right now!!!"

I also interviewed others like Shehda Zourb (35 years old), Mohammed Redwan,(40 years old)., Mohammed Al Shaier (42 years old) Eiad, Barhoum (32 years old ) and so many others, and they all told me how their homes had been demolished by the IDF.

Nothing changed. Everywhere, just turn your eyes, and you will see demolished houses. Now more than three eyewitness said: "we see the IDF trucks bring new bulldozers, tanks, vehicles, and so many jeeps for Tal Al Sultan areas.."

1 September

Over the past three days, the shelling, shooting, bombing, and killing did not stop, neither did the
demolishing of many trees in addition to blocking the roads which forced the citizens to pay a high price for taxis and transportation. It took many hours to wait at check points. Students had to wait more than 5 hours to cross a few meters from the checkpoints which were full of guns, canons, and many other soldiers.

Yesterday there was shelling and shooting, in block J, block O, and Tal Al Sultan near Rafah beach. The IDF arrested a Palestinian from Rafah near the border line in the airport area.

Today, 1st September is the first day for schools. Children did not buy school supplies nor new clothes for their new school year. The soldiers shot towards the children while they were going to their schools. Most of the injured people in Rafah are students, injured while on their way to their schools.

Also, this morning there were shelling and shooting everywhere in all Rafah Camps. The people who are living on the border line left their houses because of the massive shelling. There was also intermittent blackouts, lack of water supplies, and many other environmental problems.

The IDF soldiers believe that holding a camera is the same as holding weapons. They shot at every one who carried a camera. It has become very hard to take pictures.

The agricultural areas in Palestine are now dead, being attacked since the beginning of this Intifada. Many people cannot enter to their fields even if they enter after risking their lives, the IDF will not allow them to get their goods and sell them, although nowdays it is the only job for the framers after dividing Gaza Strip into three areas.

This picture is the Salheldeen Gate.
It was taken from one of the corners since no one has been allowed
in this area for the past three years.

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