A 3-year-old girl was killed yesterday afternoon in Rafah's Brazil neighborhood. She died from a bullet wound to the neck sustained as she played close to her home. IDF spokesmen said the army knows nothing about the incident, but that the girl's death will be investigated.
Meanwhile, the IDF reduced troop deployments in Rafah this weekend. The Golani Brigade left Rafah's Tel Sultan neighborhood and the Givati Brigade pulled out of the town's Brazil neighborhood. As of press time last night, two IDF infantry battalions, supported by tank and engineering corps units, remained in Rafah. Senior IDF sources indicated the army's Operation Rainbow in Rafah is continuing as scheduled and that the changes in troop deployments were planned in advance.
IDF troops uncovered a tunnel used for arms smuggling in the Brazil neighborhood yesterday.
Located 600 meters from the border, it is one of the longest arms smuggling tunnels discovered to date by the IDF. The tunnel was identified thanks to intelligence information compiled during the current IDF Operation Rainbow, army sources said. The IDF destroyed the tunnel.
The commander of IDF troops in the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Shmuel Zakai, yesterday denied media reports suggesting that Operation Rainbow is screeching to a halt. "The operation continues as planned," he said. The Gaza commander hinted, however, that the IDF feels compelled to lower the military operation's intensity so as to ease international pressure on Israel.
Zakai stated: "There are stages in which the number of troops deployed is lowered to allow residents to obtain provisions and to bring in food and medicine ... There is a need to show that we are acting in a precise manner and not indiscriminately putting people under curfew and demolishing homes."
Zakai added: "We don't have an unlimited amount of time, but the operation continues."
After a short leave, the Givati Brigade and Golani Brigade are expected to resume activity on new assignments in Rafah.
Palestinian sources reported yesterday that IDF tanks and other armored vehicles are in position at the eastern entrance to Rafah, in the Hallawa area.
Since IDF troops circled Rafah and began to penetrate the city last Monday, at least 43 Palestinians have been killed and dozens of houses have been demolished or irreparably damaged, Palestinian sources and those close to UN Relief and Works Agency efforts in Rafah reported.
With IDF troop deployments in the town lowered in recent days, medical and food relief teams have entered Rafah and reported on the extent of the house demolitions and property damage. The relief workers claim buildings damaged include schools and mosques. Roads have been torn up due to the IDF bulldozers and tanks, and electricity and telephone lines have collapsed, these sources said.
According to Brigadier General Zakai, the IDF has detained 100 Palestinians during the current operation. Of these, 10 were taken for questioning. Zakai told reporters that six civilians have died in Rafah - four were killed by tank fire on Wednesday.
Palestinian human rights workers dispute the IDF's estimates, saying that just 12 of the 40-plus killed in Rafah were known to have been armed.
Palestinian sources indicated yesterday that the IDF is likely to allow Tel Sultan residents to leave the neighborhood today to take part in a joint funeral held for Rafah residents killed during the IDF operation.
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