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2004-05-19

Many Palestinians Die as Israeli Gunships Attack Protest March in Rafah

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We go inside a Palestinian hospital minutes after an Israeli gunship bombed a demonstration in Rafah where Israel has been launching one of its largest offensive ever. [includes rush transcript]

An Israeli helicopter gunship fired today on a large crowd of thousands Rafah residents demonstrating against the Israeli attack. Haaretz put the death toll at 23. Other news agencies put it at around 15. At least 60 people were injured. Haaretz reports many of the casualties were women and children.

Twenty more died on Tuesday in Israel’s largest offense — dubbed "Operation Rainbow" — in years.

The group Physicians for Human Rights is reporting the IDF is preventing ambulances from traveling from nearby Khan Yunis to Rafah.

Haaretz is also reporting that the Israeli military has ordered all Palestinian men in Rafah over the age of 16 to gather in a local school. The entire Rafah refugee camp is now without water or electricity and has been sealed off from the rest of Gaza.

Yasser Arafat accused Israel of carrying out a planned massacre. He said, "What is happening in Rafah is an operation to destroy and to transfer the local Palestinian population, and this must not be accepted, not by the Palestinians, nor the Arabs, nor by the international community."

The United Nations and European Union demanded the offensive to end. President Bush spoke at an AIPAC conference Tuesday and said he was troubled by the events but added, "Israel has every right to defend itself.

  • Mohammad Omar, Palestinian speaking from Rafah in Gaza. He publishes a website about his life in Rafah.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Mohammad Omar, a web journalist in Rafah who publishes a website about life in Rafah. This is as we have just gotten the reports about a Israeli gunship firing into a large crowd of thousands of Rafah residents. Mohammad Omar, can you tell us where you are and what you see?

MOHAMMAD OMAR: Right now, I’m on a roof where there are thousands protesting and there were firing from gun ships and there’s a number of people injured. [ inaudible ] …It is horrible at the moment. …We are getting-The number of the injured people is getting increased. …There is no water. There’s no milk for children. [ inaudible ] we can’t believe what is happening here. They are treating the people as they are not human. They’re struggling.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about why thousands of people were gathered? Why they were protesting?

MOHAMMAD OMAR: If you were in their position would you do the same, because when you heard the news about how many people are injured and killed, they would go and see your relatives. Most of them have relatives. Most of them want to know, because many people lost their children in that attack. According to the Israeli media, the attack is going to continue. This attack is going to be heaviest, and the Israeli media describes it. Let me describe — [ inaudible ] it’s really very bad at the moment. It’s really very bad. The most catastrophe that is bringing injured people — when the ambulances tried to bring in injured people, they shot them. They target the armed forces. We can’t believe this. There was a girl 14 years old killed in the attack yesterday. She was killed while she was collecting the clothes on the roof of her house. Her brother also got killed by a sniper while he was feeding his two dogs.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Omar —

MOHAMMAD OMAR: In the western society. Is it drastic what is going on in Rafah?

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Omar, we are hearing reports from B.B.C. that all men over 16 have to report to the local school or their homes will be demolished. Would that include you?

MOHAMMAD OMAR: I cannot hear you.

AMY GOODMAN: We are getting reports from B.B.C. that the Israeli military is saying all men over 16 have to go to the local school or their homes will be demolished. Would that include you?

MOHAMMAD OMAR: According to Israeli media, they are going to demolish many houses. Many houses, 6,000 houses. [ inaudible ]

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Omar, I want to thank you for being with us at the hospital now, the reports at least 13 people killed in Rafah with — where the Israeli military missile striking a Rafah protest of thousands. Looking at a report from Amira Hass, a correspondent, saying at least 13 Palestinians, including two children killed today when the helicopter gun ships and tanked fired missiles and shells into the crowd at the Rafah refugee camp. This is Democracy Now!.

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