Sharon, Why Did You Destroy My House?
The writer of this article is a youth from Rafah who won an international American award for this article!
“Sharon, Why Did You Destroy My House?”: Operation Rainbow a Year Later
Mohammed Omer(al-mohayyar), Award Winner 2006: Youth Voice, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (Washington, DC), Nov 02, 2006
THE ISRAELIS called it “Operation Rainbow”—and insisted the name was generated at random by a computer. To the men, women, and children of Rafah who endured the slaughter, however, it was a bitter footnote to a week of horror. In Greek mythology, the rainbow was a bridge between earth and Olympus, between men and gods. In the Old Testament, after sending a flood that destroyed the world, God set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of peace and renewal. But in May of 2004, the "***""***""***""***"ls and bombs in the night sky over Rafah brought only death. “Operation Rainbow” is an appropriate name in only one way: a year later, the images are still vivid, their evidence of Israeli terrorism against a civilian population undimmed.
After nearly three years of intifada, the residents of Rafah were familiar enough with Israeli incursions—the American-made Apaches overhead, the tanks and the "***""***""***""***"ling, followed by the bulldozers that would destroy homes, infrastructure, lives. Like Israel’s previous invasions, Operation Rainbow was undertaken “for security reasons,” ostensibly to find and destroy alleged smuggling tunnels running from Rafah under the border into Egypt. In May 2004, however, the Israeli army began its onslaught in the northern part of Rafah—far from the border in Tal Al Sultan and El Barazil—tearing up streets completely, destroying electric, water, and sewer lines, flattening whole blocks of houses, even bulldozing Rafah’s small zoo.
Israeli snipers commandeered taller houses and took up positions on rooftops, shooting anything and anyone who moved, even killing two teenagers whose “hostile activity” consisted of taking laundry off a clothesline and feeding pet doves. All the while, the "***""***""***""***"ls from the Apache helicopters turned its victims into scattered body parts. As the week wore on, people ran out of food, water and medicine. Ambulances were pinned down by Israeli fire and could not reach the injured. The morgue in Al Najjar hospital was overflowing and, when no one could venture outdoors to bury their dead, a commercial refrigerator that usually stored vegetables was pressed into service to hold corpses.
The ceaseless din of explosions and gunfire couldn’t drown out the human chorus of despair—children crying for a piece of bread, for a cup of milk, for a drop of water, the laments of parents who had nothing to give them, the wails of the newly widowed and orphaned, the screams of the dying and dismembered. But sometimes there was only stunned, disbelieving silence, as friends and relatives tried to identify their loved ones from scattered body parts—a leg, an arm, a piece of a torso—that was all the ambulance drivers could gather.
A year later, the pictures from that time—mere pixels on a computer screen, after all—are still sickening. For the first time, I was writing warnings and apologies for the overwhelming gore of my photos. Nevertheless, the images are easier to bear than the flesh and blood reality of standing next to a hospital gurney full of bits and pieces of what were recently living human beings.
The international outcry seemed slow and muted. Before Operation Rainbow ended, 60 Palestinians had been killed, hundreds injured, many maimed for life, hundreds of houses destroyed and thousands made homeless. On May 16, the Israeli Apaches "***""***""***""***"led a peaceful demonstration of hundreds of unarmed men and boys, killing several and injuring scores. They were asking for food and water, and demanding that the international community intervene. The Israeli army tried to claim that the Palestinians had fired first, but dozens of journalists—many of whom came under fire themselves—had photographs and videos to prove the demonstrators were unarmed. At that point, even the Bush administration, usually a reliable accomplice to all of Ariel Sharon’s policies, couldn’t avoid voicing an official protest. Slowly, the Israeli army withdrew—although a few days later, as Peter Hansen, then commissioner of UNRWA, toured one of Rafah’s destroyed neighborhoods, Israeli snipers killed a three-year-old girl just a block away from the United Nations delegation.
A year later, Abu Sophi Adjarewaan, 53, spends much of every day at the mound of rubble that was once his home. Normally, this patriarch of a large extended family sells fish in the outdoor market, but now the few local fishermen who can still work rarely get their catch past the Israeli checkpoints. Nothing has been remotely normal for Abu Sophi and his family since the Israelis destroyed their home as part of Operation Rainbow. Every day for a year now, the old man sits on a small black sofa outside what was once, he will tell you, a sprawling family compound. Even after a year, even after his married children and their children salvaged what they could, Abu Sophi seems in shock, unable to comprehend the unthinkable. He inherited the house from his parents, he will tell you, and like many family homes, it expanded as his sons married and had children, as hoarded shekels became an extra room here, perhaps an extra story there. This was the house where Abu Sophi was born; it held everything he ever accomplished in life; it was to have been his legacy to his children.
Now, with money, work, and hope in short supply—indeed, even by the modest local standards, 80 percent of the families in Rafah live below the poverty line—Abu Sophi sits in the rubble every day. His little granddaughter, perhaps 3, stands at his knee, and four or five of her friends listen intently as he says, “We should be back here. We will be back rebuilding here some day. The occupation will end. There should be an end to this injustice.”