Text size

RAFAH - In every Israel Defense Forces invasion of a Palestinian city, the population has a similar daily schedule of difficulty and anxiety. Here is a partial list:

1. The sounds are first. People wake up to the sound of bullets and explosions, trying to figure out where they are coming from - whether from the air or from the ground - and where to hide.

Yesterday at 1 A.M., the first sounds of shooting in Rafah came from the Egyptian border, and the shriek of the first shells was in the area of the Yibneh camp. Sirens indicated that there had been injuries. It turned out that the injured were three armed men trying to lay explosives and five civilians, including two women. Another armed man was killed when an explosive device that he was preparing blew up in his hands.

At this point it can be assumed that the helicopter fire is intended to soften up the area for an invasion of the refugee camps along the Egyptian border. But the growl of the tanks is not heard. The assault remains airborne. Explosions, shooting, quiet, and more explosions. But by 3:30 A.M., Israeli armored vehicles have taken over Tel al-Sultan, with its 25,000 residents.

2. At the next stage, people check how careful they have to be in or outside the house. It turned out that they have to be very careful. Soldiers shot at an ambulance trying to remove the body of one of the armed men that morning, according to medical personnel and photographers. Then, Mohammed Zoarub, 33, was killed. "He understood Palestine the way I understand outer space," according to Sa'id Zoarub, a relative and mayor of Rafah. Then, the news spreads of a sister and brother, aged 16 and 14, shot and killed when they went up on their roof to feed the pigeons.

3. Freedom of movement for ambulances is a worry for everyone. Hours after the takeover of Tel al-Sultan, three dead bodies are still awaiting ambulance evacuation. An ambulance trying to transfer a wounded man to the European hospital in Khan Yunis was turned back by warning fire from a tank. A second was allowed to pass.

Eventually, after negotiations, the bodies, together with 12 seriously wounded people, are transferred to the appropriate hospital. The IDF spokesperson's office said that the ambulance had been "delayed until a bomb on the road was diffused."

4. Infrastructure is the next worry. Around 5 A.M., the electricity in Rafah went out - transformers were damaged by the shooting. The city has replaced 49 transformers since the beginning of the intifada, at a cost of $500,000. After some repairs, 70 percent of Rafah remained without electricity, including four of its six water wells.