Testimonianza da Rafah del referente di Gazzella

Pubblicato il 23 maggio 2004 da Gazzella


At last, after five months, I am allowed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to return to my home in Gaza City in order to continue my work with the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC). It is illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention for an Occupier to prevent foreigners from entering an Occupied area but the Israelis do so in the name of self-defence, claiming to see every would- be visitor as a potential terrorist. Now I am free to be the trouble maker that the Occupiers fear, one who will bear witness to events the length and breadth of that small stretch of Palestinian land.

I am assigned the job by the UPMRC of going to Rafah to check the situation. There is a delay as special milk for children has to be found. The driver and the doctor are in the front of the ambulance and I am in the back, my medical jacket giving me some sense of security. At Abu Hauli Checkpoint which separates the middle area from South Gaza, the doctor phones the Physicians for Human Rights requesting clearance to enter Tal el Sultan, a refugee camp in the West which is a closed military zone. A woman, pregnant by IVF urgently needs drugs to maintain her pregnancy. In Tal el Sultan there are a water shortage and a shortage of drugs generally leading to chronic disease. Israelis through the waits at checkpoints and searches prevent the ambulances with their doctors, nurses and rehabilitation teams from giving help quickly.

I have only ever been on the main road into Rafah but the road is closed by a tank
across it. We take small roads hugging the countryside and arrive the Palestinian
Wound Centre where the doctor and driver continue to Tal el Sultan. I am not
allowed there..

The Palestinian Wound Centre

This is not as it sounds. Wound means the suffering, the catastrophe experienced by the Palestinian people to this day. Rafah has one hospital and then this Centre which makes a network with 27 houses manned for no pay by doctors, nurses, physiotherapists. Twelve houses are down the Philadelphia Road. This network has been ready for two years and now the emergency is here, the Centre runs on a 24 hours basis. The Israelis are occupying the East, South and West of Rajah and there are not enough ambulances. Three have been destroyed by rockets. Rockets from helicopter gunfire also destroy people. A doctor puts his thumbs and index fingers to make a ring and reduces this to the size of a large orange, that being the size of the entry. People do live; a man had one in his abdomen. The doctor has reason to be pleased with his achievement.

The Philadelphia Road.

This might suggest Israel’s umbilical link with America but the name is from the
Roman Empire and chosen by Israel to keep the Palestinians mindful of their
previous occupiers. The stretch of land has been brought to the public mind by the
killing of 12 Isreali soldiers and the IDF deciding the others need the protection of a
wider space. That five times this number of Palestinians has been killed in the same
period passes attention. The road is at the Egyptian –Palestinians border and the Oslo
Agreement between Israel and Palestine allowed for a narrow stretch. This
requirement has broadened due to Egypt who has a Peace treaty with Israel
concerned at its security in relation to the Gaza Strip when Israel leaves. For the same
security reasons, Egypt wishes to avoid guns being smuggled through the tunnels and
the loss of other trade due to other smuggling. Both States seem to be intent on a
canal of electrocuted water which would flood the tunnels and deter toing and froing.

Standards of Human Decency

The rights and wrongs of the Philadelphia Road are open to debate. What is not up
for debate is how this strip of land is cleared of buildings and their inhabitants. It is
beneath any human standard that houses should be bombed and people killed, injured
or terrorized in the process, or that they should wander aimlessness in public
buildings, in schools no longer able to educate children. There are standards of
human decency that are agreed between nations and if necessary to be
imposed on nations, and these are stated in international law.

I did not know of the Philadelphia Road six months ago. For me it was Saladin Street
leading up to Yebna. I was however well aware of Israeli lawlessness. As
Internationals our job come the evening and the night was to occupy vulnerable
houses to try to prevent the military knocking them down. My house was totally
isolated on the front line seeming to invite the most violent rape. I went to bed
with a white flag which I believe symbolized international protection, the best that
Palestine could hope for. Against the tanks which threw up dust like an agitated dog,
my body felt small and fleshy with a very active brain. It became rigid but no more
effective as I heard the roar and rush of a monster which smacked something
against the front wall of the house. That was a calling card. Now the refuge and its
family are gone leaving the desired empty space.

That area is now completely militarized. If I walk there I expect to be shot. So I
walk along other once familiar territory, expecting it to look like a set of photos from
the newspaper, one heap of rubble here and another one there. But the whole area as
both devastated and populated.

Adjusting to atrocity

I peep round one steel gate and see two women as if in a cave. I move to make a
hasty retreat but they urge me to share their alternative accommodation. Four nights
ago they had been bombed and the main roof was down with together with a mass of
long metal supports. The grandmother and mother soon a settee with a door frame at
their feet. Her teenage sons set off, euphoric with 10 shekels I had given and came
back in the same state, loaded with a bottle of strawberry fizz and a bag of wafers.
As we sit, helicopters growl above and continually break into snarling spitting
teeth. The first time I heard this was at the Wound Centre when I threw myself over
the lap of the physiotherapist. But like all those around, I have become used to it.

Crimes against Humanity

Except I do sit on that settee and wonder about the mind of the dogs of war. Just
who on these narrow streets, without the protection of the Philadelphia Road and its
militia, are they intending to kill or maim? Who? I think for long enough to convince
myself that I may be killed as a Palestinian in a racist crime. If I then turn out to be
British with a name, that could create difficulties. This is another reason why
foreigners are not allowed into Gaza, the Israelis would face greater liability. Israel
, the perpetrators of Crimes against Humanity do not expect consequences for
themselves. Likewise the Nazi crimes on the Jews went unhindered. The Germans
were prosecuted because they lost the war against determined international forces
. Who will prosecute the Israelis when they win what they want, having reduced the
poor and the weak to being still poorer and weaker until they are unable to survive as
a people? This is what the Israelis want, and not just in the Philadelphia Road. They
want a land without people, the land of Palestine and beyond. I make myself brave
and continue.

The Occupied Houses

What are you looking at? I am looking at the destruction by the Israelis and I am very angry. Come and look at my house… This man speaks very good English and has not worked for 11 years. He has 11 children to feed and the baby whom he says is not getting enough milk. I smile and talk to the tiny boy and he returns with a stare from bulging eyes. Special milk. Soldiers locked the whole family into the kitchen and did want they wanted to do. The family was allowed to escape and the house was used for military purposes for three days There is curiously neat circle making a hole in an exterior wall, a hole about a metre in diameter. Beyond the hole there is now a space. There were previously four houses and five people. They have all hit the dust, the people shot at close range. As their parting present the soldiers put a bomb in the ground floor. Windows and doors flew away and there are cracks saying the house is structurally unsound. It is a part-time house. The family does not use it at night as they are too scared of the military They go to one of the three schools made available. Two brothers married two sisters and the house next door got the same bomb abuse but here they are plastering over the cracks.

Towards the mosque

I want to get a glimpse of the mosque. Even six months ago I would not be so foolish
as to walk down the hill. At the top of the hill, Tom Hurndall a British International
was killed by a shot through his head as he was helping children out of the gunfire.
There are memorials to Tom and to Rachel Currie, the American woman who was
bulldozed when trying to save a house They are inscribed on the crumbling walls of
destroyed houses. The mosque itself tells a story. The water tank on the roof had
been holed deliberately by Israeli fire and these pot shots are taken on every water
container the Israelis set eyes on. The international activists were to help the mosque
bring the tank to the ground, more out of harm’s way. Before we popped out on to the
roof, an Elder from the Church of Scotland through a microphone, told the Israelis
not to shoot us, that we were helping the Palestinians but we would not harm the
Israelis, so please don’t shoot! She said this so many times that it was clear that she
did not believe in the goodwill of the Israeli military. Despite her moral authority
it felt the Israelis being both malevolent and strong would shoot. They did not shoot.
Three weeks ago the Israeli military knocked down the Tow Heed Mosque.

A rocket

Refugee children cluster round in vast numbers wanting money. They make my blood boil in a flash It is a worry, both what they could do to me, and I could do to them. But they are also fun and a great source of information. Of course I have seen bullets but now they hand me this jumbo, jumbo sized missile, about 20 cms long. Clearly it is a helicopter rocket. I press the point into my breast and towards my heart. We all, including men who sit lining the narrow streets, laugh.

Dancing with Mad Dogs

The IDF said that fighters were leading the march? The Palestinians may have had a
home made bomb in the gutter and a rocket may have set it off??
The reply – they tell lies everywhere. She is at the event , three days ago The
demonstration is from theAoda Mosque in the centre of Rafah to Tal el Sultan. It
feels like a death march as any of us could become martyrs. We carry no banners, no
Jowals. We think that the Israelis may stop the march, They would use tear gas,
rubber bullets and even live fire, wounding or even killing two people. We start to
march. We link arms and clap to encourage ourselves. We march. We are no way
near Tal el Sultan where there is likely to be trouble when!! What a crazy thing!!
What Crazy People!!! There are rockets and I am near, I am in the middle.Oneof
my son’s friends, a metre way from him is killed.

The children are laughing and running ahead and waving us on, telling us not to
worry. It is as if they are on their way to a circus. They should have known what the
Mad Dogs who occupy the skies have in mind for them. They should have known
that theirs is a dance of death.

Jenny McArthur

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