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Israel and the autonomous/occupied territories: Aftermath of the recent destruction of homes in Rafah

24-01-2002 News Release 02/04

      

 Gaza, Rafah. Houses belonging to Palestinians demolished by the Israeli Defense Forces, 13/01/2002  

 Ref IL-N-00064-10 - Copyright ICRC / BARRY, Jessica  

    

      

 Gaza, Rafah. Registering people having their houses demolished by the Israeli Defense Forces, 13/01/2002  

 Ref IL-N-00063-26 - Copyright ICRC / BARRY, Jessica  

   

 Gaza, Rafah. One of the beneficiaries during the distribution of material reliefs and family parcels to people following the demolition of their houses by the Israeli Defense Forces, 13/01/2002  

 Ref IL-N-00063-08 - Copyright ICRC / BARRY, Jessica  

 

Sitting in the yellow light of a canvas tent in Rafah, southern Gaza, 41-year-old Atef Al Najjar spoke of the horror he had felt when he awoke in the early hours of 10 January to the sound of bulldozers crashing into his neighbour’s wall. “Our houses lay in the third row back from the Egyptian border,” he explained to two visitors and a crowd of onlookers, drawing lines in the sand with his finger. “Everyone rushed outside when they heard the machines coming, and the children ran from door to door to wake up those who were still asleep.”

That night, up to 100 families were made homeless as the Israel Defense Forces destroyed dozens of homes, clearing a swathe of land along the border, where, they claimed, Palestinian gunmen regularly fired at them from the huddled, graffiti-adorned houses that make up Rafah refugee camp.

At least Atef managed to get all 14 members of his extended family out of the house before it was demolished by the bulldozers. All but a small part of it was razed to the ground. “We were able to salvage some of our belongings,” he remarked, pointing to his disabled nephew’s tiny wheelchair. Others were not so lucky.

By now the tent was getting crowded. It had been supplied after the events of 10 January under the ICRC's assistance programme for people whose houses had been destroyed. Since the start of the second Intifada 15 months ago, nearly 6,000 homeless people have received help. Each family is given blankets, a hygiene kit, a jerrycan and other household goods, including a gas lamp that can be used for cooking, but also provides heat and light.

For the nearly 600 people who lost their homes in the latest operation – the largest one of its kind in Gaza – the emergency aid, although welcome, was not enough. Some people had also received money from various sources and were using it to rent temporary places to live. A number of men had sent their wives and children to stay with friends or relatives while they themselves slept in the donated tents, which had been pitched higgledy-piggledy along the sandy verges of Rafah’s main thoroughfare.