While Rumors Kill Rafah'

04:00-04:15 - Lengthy bursts of machine gun fire wake up the neighborhood. There are explosions from the border area. Y. explains that it's routine, almost every night.

RAFAH - 04:00-04:15 - Lengthy bursts of machine gun fire wake up the neighborhood. There are explosions from the border area. Y. explains that it's routine, almost every night. IDF patrols shoot at the abandoned houses on the border.

07:20-08:00 - Phone calls come in reporting tanks, APCs and bulldozers are gathering east of Rafah, east of Salah a Din Road, the main route through the Gaza Strip. A helicopter is overhead. UNRWA tells its staffers the army plans to block Salah a Din Road between Khan Yunis and Rafah, before a major operation. UNRWA suggests that its employees from out of Rafah go home and that its staffers who live in Rafah leave the area. The IDF announces it's closing the Rafah border crossing. Travelers waiting to cross into Egypt are sent home. Everyone is quoting the Israeli press headlines about the army preparing a major operation.

08:15 - Reports come in that some APCs and bulldozers left the south Gush Katif area and destroyed some 20 dunam of tomatoes and cucumbers on Palestinian farmland near Morag.

09:40 - Reports of large concentrations of army northwest of Rafah, between Tel al Sultan and the Rafah Yam settlement.

10:10 - There are sounds of helicopter fire. Outside, family belongings wait to be loaded onto a pickup truck. They're leaving. They rented an apartment in Jinya.

10:15 - Reports that the APCs and bulldozers leave the Morag area and head into the Atara farmlands, destroying more farmland.

10:25 - Heading east, toward Salah a Din Road, we pass the Yusuf a Najar Hospital. Ambulances are waiting outside, ready.

10:50 - Two tanks watch a bulldozer digging in Nasser neighborhood. Youths watch from a nearby hill. A burst of gunfire is aimed at them. They duck and get off the hill. Someone says that earlier, a nearby wheat field was set on fire by a rocket fired by a helicopter.

10:55 - Cars are hurrying toward Rafah, fewer cars are heading toward Khan Yunis. There's gunfire Someone says it's from the tanks guarding the bulldozers. Another burst of fire. Then another.

11:01 - Gunshots from Atara, where the bulldozers are digging. More shooting. And more traffic from the Khan Yunis area.

11:20 - Back to the center of town. People are consulting with each other by phone: To go back to Rafah? L., who teaches English, is in a hurry to get out of Khan Yunis. Y. buys double the normal number of pitot. People are filling cans with water. Y. says it's more crowded than usual in the shuk.

Noon - Girls on their way home from the UNRWA school say they were told that starting tomorrow they'll be going to another school, where classes will be held in shifts. Their school is going to be housing families who left their homes for fear the army will demolish their homes during the night.

12:15 - Salah a Din Road is closed. Rafah's been cut off. A woman in the refugee camp is weeping, "what more do they want to do to us?" Someone points out that the European Hospital is also now cut off from Rafah. That's where the wounded are taken from Rafah because a Najar Hospital can't handle all the casualties in case of a military operation.

12:35 - Reports the army is preventing passage on the dirt roads that go from Salah a Din Road to the farming plots west of it.

13:15 - In Yibneh refugee camp, a donkey pulls a wagon with antennae, a fan, a satellite dish, a TV and some planks of wood.

14:00 - Reports begin to flow in about troop concentrations in the Rafah Yam area.

17:15 - H. who lives in J Block in the camp says that the six buildings around him are empty. He remained, with his family. He says on the phone, "the rumors are killing the city. It's said the army intends to demolish houses in southwest Rafah. That could be 200 houses."

17:45 - Back in Nasser neighborhood, about 400 meters away from where Salah a Din Road is closed. People are afraid to approach to see how it was closed - with sand, cement blocs, a tank? People are afraid to approach, because tanks are firing. Tanks and helicopters fired at people who tried to take dirt roads, someone says. Someone asks Y. what to expect? He shrugs and answers, "we haven't recuperated from last week's destruction and killing."

17:45 - Bursts of machine gun fire from the tanks on Salah a Din Road. Another burst. Another. In the east, a white balloon hangs between heaven and earth. Someone says it is the camera balloon, watching for the army.

18:00 - A boy is carrying a large pot in a wheelbarrow between Brazil and a-Salam neighborhoods, right on the border. He is helping to empty a house. People continue emptying their homes and loading everything onto donkey carts or tractors, horse carts or taxis. The Red Cross is allowed to move equipment by truck - but only on the dirt roads, not the main road. The truck gets stuck.