Thousands of residents from the southern Gaza town of Rafah, home to 140,000 people, have fled their homes in recent days, fearing that the Israeli army will demolish their homes as the army of occupation continues to terrorize the people of Gaza.
On Monday night the army was poised to move in into Rafah. An estimated 100 tanks, plus APCs and bulldozers backed by helicopter air support, moved to cut off the southern stretch of Gaza from the rest of the Strip. Forces have been added to those who man the Philadelphi corridor area, which forms a line south of Rafah. It would be the biggest Israeli army operation since Operation Defensive Shield in March 2002 that has entered the pages of history as the killing of Jenin.
During the 2002 Operation in the Jenin refugee camp, launched by Sharon allegedly to avenge the bombing of a Passover Seder in a Netanya hotel in which 30 people were killed, many houses were demolished and no one will ever know how many Palestinians were killed including women, old men and young children. [Note: The Passover Seder takes place on the first two nights of the 8 day holiday, the Seder is the most important event in the Passover celebration]
Under the terms of Israel's 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, Rafah became a divided city, with the half bordering the Sinai Desert becoming sovereign Egyptian territory, the other half remaining part of the Gaza Strip under the Israeli occupation.
The army maintained a road the length of the Gaza side of the border, which it code-named the Philadelphi route. Since the uprising began in late 2000, Palestinian militant groups have dug a series of deep tunnels stemming from houses on the Egyptian side, to smuggle weapons, explosives, ammunitions, funds, and other material essential to fight an army that is considered to be the fourth strongest army in the world equipped with the most sophisticated weapons made in the US and the Israeli armaments factories.
In recent days, army brass had indicated that there were plans to widen Philadelphi to 250 meters across - more than twice the present width in some stretches. The plan would have meant the demolition of large numbers of homes on the Gaza side.
Israel has demolished more than 3,000 homes during the current three-year conflict with the Palestinians, most of them in the Gaza Strip. According to Palestinian sources the Israeli army destroyed 100 houses in the camp last week alone. 10 percent of Gaza's agricultural land has been destroyed and more than 226,000 trees uprooted there in 2002 and 2003.
This operation has been planned as a new stage in a process that began with the assassinations of the Hamas leaders. The Israeli imperialists have claimed "the sole purpose of the operation is to blow up arms smuggling tunnels which exit from inside the houses of the Rafah refugee camp."
Like the US before it went to occupy Iraq, at a press briefing at the Kissufim crossing in the Gaza Strip, Ya'alon, the head of the army said Tuesday (May 18) that the Israeli army has been forced to enter Rafah as it has become a gateway for terrorism. This is not the real reason and is a typical lie. The real aim of the military operation is to terrorize the Palestinian people into accepting the plans Sharon has for them. This is the true meaning of the imperialist “peace and dividends” our reformist woodenheads promised, following the collapse of the USSR.
On Tuesday night, a few minutes after the first missile strike, army bulldozers began levelling land next to the refugee camp, witnesses said. Palestinian security officials said the huge armoured bulldozers moved to the edge of the Qishda section of the camp near the border and began working on land in an Israeli-controlled zone. So far even before the mass killing has begun, at least 20 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army. Three children, including a 13-year-old boy and his 16-year-old sister, were reportedly among the dead. Some 25 additional Palestinians were reported as wounded. Clinics and hospitals in the area are on high alert, anticipating many casualties, especially if armed gunmen try to oppose the expected incursion. Palestinian security sources said two ambulances came under fire from army snipers, and that one was hit by three bullets. Rescue workers said the morgue at the small Rafah hospital was full, and bodies were being moved to a nearby shop.
Some 45 residents of Rafah petitioned the so-called High Court of Justice on Monday night to stop the expected demolition of additional homes in the area. The court rejected a similar petition Sunday.
The raid drew UN and European Union criticism over fears it could make thousands more Palestinians homeless. The EU on Tuesday reiterated its condemnation of the military action, warning the demolitions of Palestinian homes broke the spirit of the internationally-brokered Road Map to Middle East peace.
"What is taking place now in Gaza is something that we have to condemn and condemn very strongly," said Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy representative. "What is going on is the destruction of houses and that is something that goes very much against the letter and the spirit of the road map," he told reporters. This is pure hypocrisy on the part of the EU, and it ignores the real situation on the ground, as Israel’s present actions are the real spirit of the peace map.
The Palestinian Authority is appealing to the capitalist governments of the west to put pressure on Israel to end the raids. “We call upon the whole world to immediately intervene to block Israel's military escalation," said Erekat. Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's top aide, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, rightly called the offensive a "war of annihilation" and a "humanitarian disaster," but then he also called for outside intervention to stop "these massacres," revealing the fact that they still believe that such “outside agencies” really have an interest in coming into conflict with Israel.
The Arab League, also convened on Tuesday in Cairo and declared that the Israeli operation was aimed at "ethnic cleansing", which again is correct, but what are they going to do concretely to save the Palestinians? The League said it would start taking judicial steps to bring Israelis to trial for war crimes. How that is going to be done is anyone’s guess. In the meantime the Israeli army continues its operations.
On Monday, foreign ministers from the 25-nation EU issued a statement urging Israel to "cease such demolitions immediately" adding they violated "Israel's obligations under the road map." Solana said the United States, the United Nations and Russia - the EU's co-sponsors of the road map - had similar views on the demolitions.
On Tuesday even the Bush administration also cynically came out with criticism of Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on a weekend visit to Jordan that Washington opposed "wholesale bulldozing of houses" in Rafah, as if what Sharon is doing were not part of his “disengagement” plan that Bush has give his blessing to only a few days ago; as if Israel is not doing the same thing as the US is doing in Iraq.
What all this criticism from the various governments of Europe, America, the Middle East and from the UN reflects is the growing opposition around the world to the war crimes of the rulers of Israel, but it also reflects the fear of many capitalist governments around the world that Israel’s terrorising and crushing of the Palestinian people will further destroy the social and political stability of the region. They have enough on their plate with the destabilising effects of the occupation of Iraq.
The United Nations Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting at the request of the Arab rulers to discuss the recent developments in the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli army radio however, quoted Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman as saying that there was a "very, very strong chance" that the United States would veto any condemnation. He is most likely right on this point. It merely emphasises further that the United Nations is nothing but a talking shop and not a body that can solve any serious problem. The US, as the most powerful nation on earth, will not allow any action that would genuinely curtail the power of Israel.
As we reported in a previous article, the Zionist left gave support to Sharon last Saturday in the mass demonstration in Tel-Aviv. As could be expected that was understood by Sharon as support for his new war crimes. They had the illusion that because the Likud had opposed Sharon’s “withdrawal plan” that somehow it was progressive. In reality the big turnout showed that many people simply want to pull out of Gaza and dismantle the settlements. Because no one else was doing anything they even turned to Sharon! But now they have a sudden nasty surprise. Far from withdrawing, Sharon’s army has stepped up the repression in gaza. That explains why now those same Zionist left leaders want to distance themselves from Sahron for now. “ Demolishing the houses of innocent people is a war crime," said left Zionist, Yahad legislator Yossi Sarid on Tuesday, after hearing Ya'alon testify on the Rafah operation before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Whether Sharon will cave in to the pressure and do the same in the future or whether he will carry out his plans now, we cannot say for certain. It all depends on the balance of forces inside Israel and internationally. What we can say is that his plan is in no way a real concession to the Palestinian people. His overall plan is to take more land from them and to keep them in a state of oppression.
We can only repeat what we have said so many times. There is no solution to the Palestinian national question or any other national questions, and for this matter any serious democratic questions, within the framework of the decaying barbaric world order. The capitalist governments, the rulers of the Arab states, the left Zionists and the reformist leaders of all shades are incapable of coming up with a genuine long-lasting solution. An unjust system cannot produce just solutions. Until the working class will takes power and transforms the entire world capitalist system we will continue to sink in blood and misery.
Our task is to offer a class-based alternative. The workers on all sides are the ones who suffer in this situation. So long as they do not have their own voice and are forced to follow one or other of the bourgeois forces there will be no way out. It is our task to start building that voice.
In Israel we must start by calling for the withdrawal of troops from all the occupied territories now! Stop the destruction of Palestinian homes! We cannot be free in Israel so long as our government is free to oppress another people.