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Rafah Invasion - the end? Adam Keller doubts it

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Rafah Invasion - the end?
Adam Keller - Tel-Aviv, May 25, 2004

At long last, the Israeli armed forces have ended their invasion and occupation of Rafah. It had cost the lives of 59 Palestinians - 12 of them unarmed civilians according to the army's own account. The invasion aroused worldwide condemnation, including a censuring resolution by the UN Security Council which the United States exeptionally did not veto, and aroused widespread controversy inside Israel.

After the fatal "warning shots" fired last Wednesday by a tank at an unarmed demonstration, it was widely expected that the Rafah operation would be terminated. But with the tacit agreement of Washington, the army continued its operation and even extended it into hitherto untouched neighborhoods of Rafah. On Sunday, there came the news of widespread home demolitions at the Barazil Neighborhood - first from Ha'aretz correpsondent Amira Hass, the only Israeli journalist to be present at Rafah from the beginning of the invasion. Then Kol Israel military correspondent Carmela Menashe gained entry to Barazil and broadcast a shocking account on the station's noon news maganize, which she later published also in a two- page article in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot. Finally, Israel's two commercial TV stations, Channel 2 and Ch. 10, broadcast extensive footage of Palestinians digging in the ruins of their homes and trying to salvage some possessions (such footage was conspicuously absent on the government- controlled Channel 1). In the cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Yosef ("Tommy") Lapid sharply criticized the house demolitions, stating: "The sight of an old Palestinian woman digging in the ruins for her medicines reminds me of my grandmother". Since Lapid is a Holocaust survivor, this was taken as a comparison between the army's conduct and that of the Nazis. The fact that the Shinuy leader said this means that he thinks it is what his constituency feels. Lapid, a former TV talk-show commentator, is quite a demagogue.

This morning Kol Yisrael interviewed Brigadier-General Shmuel Zakai, commander of the Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, and asked him to account for the fifty-six houses the army now admits to destroying at Rafah (after several days when they claimed to have demolished "only five"). His answer: "We had reason to think that the Palestinians had mined the roads, so we wanted to create a cleared space to let the tanks and armoured personnel carriers pass through". General Zakai evidently assumed that the Israeli public would accept this as an acceptable reason for wiping out whole streets...

Now, the army is out of Rafah, and the Israeli headlines are caught by Sharon's plan to pass through his cabinet some form of a "Gaza Disengagement Plan" - though, it seems, one even more partial and vague than the earlier one. And meanwhile, the issue of Rafah is far from off the agenda. In today's Yediot Aharonot General Gabi Ashkenazi, deputy Chief-of- Staff, reiterated the army's position: "We must keep hold of the Philadelphi Route" (the Israeli-controlled wedge seperating the Palestinian Gaza Strip from Egypt). The plans to widen "Philadelphi", at the expanse of destroying some 2000 houses (!) at Rafah are not off the agenda, either. They are likely to resurface in the event of a new attack on Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip - or of any other event which would provide a "need for a retaliation."

# The Colonel's Mother demonstrated against the military operation (translated from Yediot Aharonot, 25/5/04)

Aliza Tibon, mother of Colonel Noam Tibon who commands the Nahal Brigade and whose soldiers are engaged in various tasks in the Territories, joined in yesterday's protest outside the Defence Minstry in Tel-Aviv calling for evacuation of the army from Rafah. Tibon arrived there together with other women active in the left-wing movement "The Fifth Mother", having last week participated in a vigil at the Kisufim Chackpoint at the Gaza Strip entrance to protest what the movement termed "the harm caused to innocents". Tibon, who lives in Kibbutz Tzor'ah, came yesterday morning by train to Tel- Aviv and stood in front of the Defence Ministry, holding a sign reading "Down With the Occupation". She told her fellow activists that she could not remain silent in face of the sights from Rafah which she saw on TV, and felt she must take personel action to help get the army outof there. She told journalists "I am proud to be Noam's mother and I am proud to demonstrate against the occupation".

# For photos & report of May 21 demonstration at Kissufim Checkpoint:

# Donations for the families in Rafah whose houses were demolished can be sent by cheque - in your own currency! - made out to Anat Matar, 33 Bernstein-Cohen Street, Ramat Hasharon 47213. Bigger sums can be deposited to the Ta'ayush' bank account: Bank Hapoalim, acc. no. 396608, Ramat Aviv branch 606 (Please avoid international bank transfer of two-digit sums because of prohibitive bank fees). NB: in both cases you should inform Anat Matar about the sum you have donated, by sending her the details at


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# Sharansky and the New Antisemitism, by Adam Keller -

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Presence at villages threatened by the wall, contact:
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Eye-witness reports from the Occupied Territories:
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