Opinion Editorials, June 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: ww.aljazeerah.info
Horrors of the Israeli War on Rafah: Seventy-Two Hours in Muhammed El-Najjar's House
By Hassan El-Najjar
Al-Jazeerah, June 8, 2004
On May 15, 1948, Israel was established with full support from the US and the UK. For several months in 1948 and 1949, the Israeli army and the Israeli terrorist organizations evicted about 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, villages, and cities. They lived in refugee camps in Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Today, Palestinians are estimated between eight and nine million people almost half of them still live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel.
Some of them came to live in the Rafah refugee camp at the border between Egypt and Palestine. In 1956, Israel attacked and occupied Gaza Strip part of the tripartite aggression together with Britain and France, in what was known as the Suez campaign. During that seven month occupation period, Israeli troops committed a major massacre in Rafah in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed.
In 1967, Israel launched its war of aggression that resulted in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip together with Sinai and the Golan Heights. For 37 years now, the Israelis have been trying to enslave the Palestinian people and get them to accept the occupation, which means living under the Israeli military rule without any political or national rights. However, Palestinians have not stopped their resistance to the Israeli occupation. They have insisted to be free like all nations of the world.
The last Israeli military campaign against the Rafah refugee camp started in the last week of May 2004 in retaliation for the killing of eight Israeli occupation soldiers in Rafah and six of them in the Gaza Zaitoon neighborhood, earlier. The pretext for the Rafah campaign was looking for tunnels through which Palestinians smuggle weapons from Egypt. But there were no tunnels to find. Scores of innocent Palestinians were massacred, hundreds were injured, and thousands became homeless as a result of demolishing their homes. The whole city and its refugee camp were devastated by the Israeli military campaign.
Al-Jazeerah published articles about the Israeli occupation atrocities in Rafah, like the two articles below. In this article, the story of one family will be told as an example of what the Israeli occupation soldiers did to the Palestinian civilian population, which went mainly unreported by the media, which focused understandably on the killings, injuries, and demolitions of homes.
Muhammed Mustafa El-Najjar was seventy years old when he died of heart attack on Thursday, May 27, 2004, few days after Israeli occupation soldiers left his home. Muhammed was forced out of his village Isdood in 1948, which the Israelis call Ashdod now. He came to Rafah with his parents and stayed in the refugee camp there until few years ago, when he bought a lot of land in Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood. With help from his four married sons, they built a four-storey building, including an apartment for each one of them.
The Israeli occupation tanks and forces came to Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood though it is far away from the border with Egypt, which proves that their objective was not looking for the alleged weapon tunnels. Rather, it was a revenge campaign and a show of force against the refugees of Rafah.
Six Israeli occupation soldiers knocked at Muhammed El-Najjar's door. When it was opened, they entered and told him that they would stay in his house for the following few days until the end of the Israeli operation in Rafah. Instantly, they ordered the five families to come to the ground floor and stay in the living room there. Two soldiers went up to the roof to be as snipers who would alternate their work with the other four.
They stayed for 72 hours, during which they would eat and drink from the family food. They would sleep in the upper apartments. They prevented members of the five families, who were about 25 people, from getting out of the building or from entering their apartments. They all had to stay and sleep in the living room in the ground floor, men, women, and children.
The Israeli soldiers also brought with them a neighbor from Al-Bayoomi family, who is also related to El-Najjar family. He had to accompany them at gun point to do any work they wanted him to do, like lifting things or demolishing walls for them to pass from one house to another because they were afraid to walk in the streets.
When anyone wanted to go to the bathroom, he or she had to be allowed by the Israeli soldiers to do so and would be ordered to make it quick.
When the Israeli occupation soldiers left after three days, the El-Najjars went to see what happened to their apartments. They couldn't believe what they saw. The Israeli soldiers stole everything they could take with them, particularly jewelry, about $1,000 (which is a fortune for the residents of Rafah most of whom are unemployed now), cellular phones, and anything they could carry with them. The most disgusting thing was that they urinated and defecated on the beds in all of the apartments.
Muhammed El-Najjar Dies
The seventy years old Muhammed Mustafa El-Najjar couldn't take the horror of having six enemy soldiers staying with his extended family for 72 ours at gun point, frightening the children and humiliating the adults. He would open the window for some air but the Israeli soldiers would scream at him not to. He needed heart medicine. His sons called for the ambulance, using a cellular phone, to come to take him to the hospital. Actually, the ambulance came but it was fired at by the Israeli soldiers who even refused to let the driver bring the medicine to Muhammed. The ambulance returned to the hospital without Muhammed and without delivering the medicine to him. He had several heart attacks and two days after they had left, Muhammed Mustafa El-Najjar died. His death was not counted in the official statistics as one of the victims of the Israeli horror campaign in Rafah. But it was absolutely related to that savage campaign.
Muhammed El-Najjar's case, including the dispatch of the ambulance to his house and the firing at the ambulance, is documented in the Abu Yousuf Al-Najjar Hospital. The family was also visited by representatives of the International Society of the Red Cross to document his death and the circumstances surrounding it.
There were many Palestinians like Muhammed El-Najjar, who died after the campaign or who are still suffering as a result of the horrors they witnessed on the hands of the Israeli occupation forces. Among the most victimized have been those whose homes have been demolished and thousands of them are living in the Rafah schools and public buildings in the city.
The Neighborhood Ordeal
The ordeal did not end by the departure of the Israeli occupation soldiers because the first thing the Israelis did when they arrived to Tel Al-Sultan was destroying the utilities in the neighborhood. Within few hours of their arrival, there was no electricity, no running water, and no telephone lines working.
People were fired at in the streets without any warning. There were people lying in the streets killed or injured. Whenever anybody tried to approach them for help, they were fired at. Even ambulances were fired at to prevent them from taking the injured or the dead to the hospital.
The Israeli occupation forces also destroyed the neighborhood mosque, library, and the little zoo. The most devastating was bulldozing the streets, which also destroyed the sewer system and you can imagine the grave consequences of that on the public health in the city.
They also destroyed all the cars which were parking in the streets with missiles and tank shells. They bulldozed the greenhouses used by small farmers to produce vegetables. Tanks would destroy walls, electric posts, or anything they could in the neighborhood.
After the destruction of the telephone lines, people resorted to the radio station of Al-Shabab, which broadcast from Gaza City. With help from people who had cellular phones in Rafah, some help was directed to the needy through that radio station. Several women, like Tahani Saleem Al-Bayoumi, went to labor and their families would call Al-Shabab Radio, which would call the Red Cross Society. The Red Cross Society would contact the Israeli occupation government, which would allow an ambulance to go to a certain house to take a woman to the hospital.
In several cases, like the case of Asma Khalifa, Israeli tanks fired at an ambulance despite the agreement. Asma had to jump from her bedroom window to avoid an Israeli tank at her door. Then, she went from one house to another with help from her brother until she reached a house of a nurse who delivered the baby.
The problem for the people in Tel Al-Sultan was the lack of batteries for their radio sets. The electric power was off for a week and they had to do something about it. Some of them connected car batteries to their radio sets. Others even used batteries of their cellular phones for the same purpose.
What has been happening to the Palestinian people since 1948 is insane and a disgrace to the Israelis and their supporters. But what is happening to Palestinians right now is a disgrace for all humanity, which is doing nothing to stop the Israeli aggressors.
The Israeli occupation campaign on Rafah was so savage that even a Sharon cabinet member could not believe what was happening and compared it to the Nazi atrocities against Jews.
The Israeli Occupation Terror Campaign in Rafah: A Close-Up
RAFAH, May 22, 2004, (WAFA)-
After three days of on-going Israeli terror on Rafah,
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) partially pulled back tanks from the heart
of Tal- al-Sultan and took up positions at its entrances, keeping it under
Killing of Nine Palestinians Including a Child Raises the Death Toll in Rafah to 45, Names and More News From Palestine
RAFAH, May 20, 2004 (IPC+WAFA)--
The Israeli occupying forces (IOF) continue its onslaught on Rafah city and its refugee camp, killing six citizens and massing its military escalation in the Al-Salam and Al-Barzeil (Brazil) and Juneina neighborhoods and two others in Tal al Sultan neighborhood at a time a strangulated siege is still imposed on Tal sultan neighborhood for the third day consecutively.
The citizen Jamal Al-Attar was killed and four others were wounded by the Israeli occupying forces in the Tal-Sulatan neighborhood of Rafah.
Witnesses said that the Israeli snipers soldiers, positioned at Al-Assar residential building opened their heavy gun fire towards one of the houses, killing Al-Assar and wounding four others.
Concurrently, the body of the citizen Mohammed Ibraheem Jabber was evacuated to Abu Yousef Al Najr hospital after being snipped by the Israeli soldiers behind Belal Bin Rabah mosque, he was left bleeding for more than 12 hours.
Hours earlier, the three-years-old boy Samer Abu Araja shocked today predawn to death due to unleashing indiscriminate whizzing shootings of tank and rifles by the Israeli occupying forces in Al Juneiena neighborhood.
Pre the daylight break the dark, the Israeli combat helicopters fired four missiles near an olive tree grove in Rafah , killing six Palestinians at least and wounding two others as the smoke were went up into the sky due to a blasť set to a building.
Witnesses said that they have found three bodies were torn into shreds close to the Al shuhda cemetery in Al Juneinh neighborhood, east of Rafah city while the three others were killed in a close area to Al Barazil neighborhood. The residents of Al-Barazil and Al Salam neighborhoods confined to their dwellings under a military edict of strict curfew by the loudspeakers.
The Palestinian medical officials of Abu Yousef Al Najar hospital named the victims as Yousef Mughri,22, Hamed Bahloul,18, Mahmoud Deep,22, Mahmoud Al Akhrass,18, Wael Jazer,18, his son Abed Al Nasser ,27 aged. Most gravely, the ambulances and rescue workers were disallowed to reach the scene as the Israeli troops deliberately snipped and shot fire towards them.
Earlier on today, the citizen Jalal Assar was critically wounded, he was left bleeding on the ground in al Quds Street in Tal Al sultan neighborhood and no one dared to help him due to the heavy firing.
Meanwhile, the Israeli occupying forces has razed the house of Ommer Abu Hamad in Al Barzeil neighborhood. The locals appealed to the international Red Cross society to salvage the house as basement of the house was totally destroyed with tank shelling.
The eyewitness of Al Bardawail family of 20 members that was held inside its house noted that the Israeli occupying forces demolished some walls of the house to make rifle holes for sniping any moving object.
The Israeli snipers also took over and positioned at the rooftops of the citizens houses.
According to an eyewitness, the Israeli invading troops took up position inside and at the rooftop of the house, Hamed Tafesh and Abu Ghaliís supermarket, and the houses of Ahmed Ghali, opposite to Al-noor mosque besides scores of houses in Canada neighborhood of Rafah.
At the early morning, the house of al sheikh Nafez Azam , key political leader of Islamic Jihad, the house of Yasser Abu Zaid and Rafahís sport club in al Brazil neighborhood were knocked down. Witnesses mentioned that the house of Dr. Ibrahim Abu Nasser, adjacent to the destroyed house of Azam is homing Dr. Ibraheemís wife and his four kids, the contact with the family was lost.
Witnesses said that the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) commenced the demolition of the citizensí houses in Rafah refugee camp, they held the dwellers in one room and banned them from moving.
They added that the power is still disconnected on all Rafah, no water, the telephone cables were destroyed. The baby milk and basic food stuffs were unavailable due the ongoing curfew and siege on the city, a forecast of an inevitable humanitarian catastrophe.
Over the past three days, 45 Palestinians including women and children have been killed by Israeli troops as dozens others have been wounded.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.