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Turkey is Latest Critic of Israel’s ‘Terrorism’

Turkey is Latest Critic of Israel’s ‘Terrorism’ in Rafah

Erdogan Declines Invitation to Israel, Gul Mulls Calling Ambassador

Amid worldwide protests against Israel’s war crimes in the Palestinian town of Rafah, Turkey’s Prime Minister declined an invitation to visit the Jewish state on Wednesday as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot dead three more Palestinians and sealed off and imposed a curfew on the West Bank city of Nablus early Thursday.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Israel’s visiting infrastructure minister that the time was not right for a visit, a Turkish official told AP on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.

Erdogan told the minister, Joseph Paritzky, that he condemned the Israeli “operation” in the Rafah refugee camp as “terrorism,” private NTV station quoted Turkish officials as saying.

Turkey plans to open an embassy in Palestine and appointed former state minister, Vehbi Dincer, as Turkey’s Special Envoy to Palestine, said Erdogan.

Separately and in response to a question on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkey’s ambassador to Tel Aviv could be called back for consultations, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom acknowledged other international condemnations.

Shalom briefed Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday that the international community reacted strongly to “Operation Rainbow,” during which the UN Security Council adopted a resolution which condemned Israel and called on it to cease the onslaught.

H said that his German counterpart Joschka Fischer and US Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned him to express their concern over the continuation of the onslaught, while Powell at the same time recognized Israel’s security needs and its complete right to defend itself.

More condemnations came from UN Secretary Kofi Annan and EU President Bertie Ahern, an Israeli Cabinet statement said.

Amnesty Accuses Israel of ‘War Crimes’

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Amnesty International accused Israel of “war crimes”.

IOF killed some 600 Palestinians, including more than 100 children in 2003, said Amnesty International’s annual report, which was released Wednesday.

According to the report, most of the Palestinians who died were killed unlawfully, in “reckless shooting, shelling and bombing in civilian residential areas, in extra-judicial executions and through excessive use of force.”

The IOF killed three more Palestinians in the last 24 hours in the Gaza Strip, and sealed off the northern West Bank city of Nablus early Thursday, confining more than 150,000 civilians to their homes under a strict military curfew.

IOF military vehicles and troops stormed the premises of the Palestinian civil defense and municipal police in Nablus, opening sporadic heavy machine gunfire, WAFA reported.

In the Gaza Strip, they shot dead Mohammad Mahmoud Zurub, 42, while he was looking through remnants of his demolished home in Rafah on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, IOF informed the Palestine National Authority (PNA) authorities that they were holding the bodies of two Palestinians near the Sofa crossing point, north of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, WAFA reported.

Apparantly the IOF shot dead both Palestinians.

A total of 62 Palestinians were killed during the seven-day IOF onslaught dubbed “Operation Rainbow” in Rafah, Palestinian medical sources said on Wednesday.

Director of Abu Yusef Al-Najjar hospital in the town Ali Musa told reporters that 25 out of the 62 people killed by the IOF were below 18.

Musa added that 280 others were injured, half of whom were children.

Israelis Critical Too

The Israeli government and its occupation army are facing growing criticism over the Rafah “operation.”

IOF troops caused about $7 million in damage to infrastructure in Rafah, including the electricity grid, water and sewage pipes, and streets, according to Israeli media estimates, aside from the cost of more than 60 houses demolished by the invading army.

From 18 May until 23 May, a total of 45 buildings in the Tel Sultan, Brazil and Salam quarters of Rafah refugee camp were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. These buildings housed 98 families or 575 individuals, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement Tuesday.

In total, from 1 May until 23 May, 155 buildings, housing 360 families, or 1,960 individuals, have been demolished in Rafah.

Since the start of the Intifada (uprising) against the 37-year-old occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 1,354 buildings have been demolished in Rafah, affecting 13,175 people, UNRWA added.

The IOF said in a statement confirmed that “approximately 56 structures” had been destroyed in Rafah last week, but an AFP correspondent reported that more than 100 buildings had been either razed to the ground or were now too dangerous to live in.

However, Jessica Montell, the director of the Israeli human rights organization B-Tselem reported that on May 15-16, IOF destroyed 116 houses in Rafah, rendering more than 1,100 people homeless.

The IOF then began “Operation Rainbow,” in which they demolished an additional 67 houses over the last week. Since January, the army demolished 284 homes in Rafah, leaving 2,185 Palestinians homeless, Montell said.

The demolitions seemed “deliberate,” the Israeli Ha’aretz said.

“It seems that the demolition of homes was deliberate, rather than the result of a breach of discipline on the part of the IDF units deployed in Rafah,” Ha’aretz said Thursday.

Some IOF officers strongly criticized their troops’ onslaught.

“We behaved like a bull in a china shop in Rafah (refugee camp),” the Israeli daily Ma’ariv quoted a senior IOF officer as saying to Reuters.

The daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted another senior IOF officer as saying: “There is no doubt that international pressure, and domestic (criticism), caused the operation to end early.”

The Israeli media was also critical.

“The harsh pictures of demolished homes in Rafah, with their wretched owners among the ruins, touched the hearts of many... including in Israel,” Ma’ariv columnist Amir Rappaport wrote.

The Kol Israel military correspondent Carmela Menashe gained entry to the Brazil neighborhood of the Rafah refugee camp and broadcast a shocking account on the station’s noon news magazine, which she later published also in a two-page article in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot.

Israel’s two commercial TV stations, Channel 2 and Channel 10, broadcast extensive footage of Palestinians digging in the ruins of their homes and trying to salvage some possessions (such footage was absent on the government-controlled Channel 1).

“Justice” Minister Yosef 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 Israeli army’s conduct and that of the Nazis.


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