A Phone call from under the siege of Rafah
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Gaza City: It was just before midnight (Tuesday, May 18th.), when I tried to contact my friend Mohammad from the worst hit neighborhoods in Rafah, South of Gaza Strip. Earlier on, during the day, I made several attempts to contact my friend, but with no success. News from Rafah started to become extremely worrying about the high number of killed Palestinians at the Tel Alsultan area of Rafah. Israeli army killed fourteen people in the morning of Tuesday alone. Journalist inside the area talked over the phone about injured people in the streets bleeding to death and calling for immediate help. But, Israeli snipers prevented ambulances and private cars from reaching the dead or injured by shooting at any one who comes near those lying down in the middle of the streets.
I was increasingly Becoming worried Mohammad. I tried again and the phone rang on the other end of the line and finally after about a minute or so, a deep, low and tired voice answered. Mohammad said that his house was actually in the middle of Israeli army military operations. ・I am talking to you and there is a tank right below our house. Apaches are flying above us and firing at surrounding houses. We are all now in one room and no one can leave it unless it is urgent.・Said Mohammed who lives with his parents and seven brothers and sisters.
The normally upbeat and cheerful Mohammed spoke with a voice that only reflected the deadly danger and extreme situation he was in. ・It is death all around us.・Spoke Mohammad and continued,・I tell you there are more than twenty bodies lying on the streets near our house. Some of them dead. Others are injured and bleeding to death waiting for ambulances to arrive. Israeli snipers occupied every tall building in the area and shoot at any moving object. They shoot at ambulances and rescue teams.
He also described how they were being restricted and confined in one room. To leave the room, they must crawl down to avoid being seen through the widows. Adults in the house prevent children from leaving the room. ・What is worst about this is that children are going crazy when hearing explosions of missiles and firing from tanks. Imagine, when the soldiers in the tank below, keep firing continuously for three minutes the heavy machine gun with the terrible sound it makes. Children cannot take it. They go crazy.・Said Mohammed trying to convey a picture of the conditions his little brothers and sisters were facing. He spoke on,・what is really tragic is when we hear of voices next door or in the streets shouting for help and no one can step outside to save those people. Our neighbors, the Ghuneims, have lost tow of their children, one twelve years old boy and his sixteen years sister. Both of them went to the roof of the house and soon Israeli snipers shoot at them. Both brother and sister were bleeding and shouting for help as soldiers kept firing sporadically everywhere. We heard their voices and pain but no one could go and save them. Soldiers were firing at the whole place.
A couple of hours later, the brother and sister died on the roof of their house.
The phone line was cut suddenly and I tried to call again but to no vail.
Media sources reported the killing of more than twenty Palestinians that day and more than forty injured that day. Many Rafah residents pleaded through local Radio stations to international organizations like UNRWA, Red Cross and Kofi Annan to allow ambulances and medical teams to reach their devastated areas. Rafah people know that the attack on Tel Alsultan area carries no significant military propose because the area is not adjacent to the border in which Israeli claim ongoing activities of weapons smuggling. Also, Israeli military posts and settlements overlook the area directly. One local municipal leader said that the attack by Israel on this area is ・ to kill for the sake of killing only.・
The latest news from Rafah has mentioned that Israel army is demanding local people to leave their homes and go to nearby schools. But Palestinian Radio stations urged the people not to do so because Israeli soldiers and snipers are actually selecting young men from the crowds and shoot at them. A number of dead bodies are still thrown about in the open.
May 19th. 2004