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As the fifth day of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip begins, Rafah
and Gaza City, the two main targets, have witnessed hundreds of deaths.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blames Hamas, the ruling party in
Gaza, for inciting Israel�s attack. Hamas, vows to keep shelling Southern
Israel with rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Lia Tarachansky spoke to
Fida Qishta in Rafah, located in Southern Gaza. Qishta reports one of the
first targets of the Israeli bombardment were the tunnels dug by
Palestinians under the wall, which separates Rafah in two, half in
Palestine and half in Egypt. These tunnels, says Qishta, have been used
since the beginning of the siege to smuggle food, and according to Israel,
weapons. Qishta also reports of the wall being breached by Palestinians
desperate to escape to Egypt. Though unsuccessful, this is the fifth
attempt since the beginning of the second Intifadah to breach it.

Story Transcript

Report from Rafah
Real News Network Staff

MISHUK MUNIER, TRNN: Just days before the December 27 bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, Justin Alexander, Palestine analyst for The Economist intelligence unit, had predicted that there is a heightened risk of major conflict in Gaza following the expiry of a six-month ceasefire. According to him, this was a result of the heightened political competition between Israel’s main parties in the run-up to the general election on February 10. At least 340 Palestinians have died from the bombardment of Gaza City in Rafah in the last few days; more than 1,400 are injured. The UN Relief and Works Agency said on Monday that at least 51 of the dead were Palestinian civilians, including women and children, although Israeli leaders have stated they will only target Hamas infrastructures. We talked with Fida Qishta, a school teacher and freelance journalist in Rafah, to tell us more about the bombardment and its impact over the past few days.

FIDA QISHTA, RAFAH SCHOOL TEACHER, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: They say that they’re just attacking military base or attacking the government in Gaza, but this is not true. Most of the people who were killed were in the streets or children going to their schools. On the last Sunday, a mother and her children, a mother and her four children, and the fifth also died. One just survived. Can you imagine your family like that, to be among your sisters or brothers and to be the only survivor? It was a general situation in the Gaza Strip, not just in Rafah. But for me, I live in Rafah. The attack was too many buildings in Rafah, including the police station and the municipality of Rafah. The last attack was this morning for a Palestinian house. Three children killed. This morning they targeted many houses in Jabalya, and they’ve targeted many mosques. They’ve targeted five mosques; they targeted a hospital, four houses. In Rafah they targeted a house, a family. And the last thing that I hear from the television, that they said they’re going to attack the main hospital in the Gaza Strip, which is the Al Shifa Hospital. And if they do, it’s going to be a genocide. Listen, listen. This is a message from the Israeli army. [an incoherent message plays] That was a message for the people’s phones from the Ministry of Defense. I didn’t catch all of it; my sister did. So the message was saying, “Don’t deal with Hamas as a government, because they’re smuggling weapons and they are making, digging tunnels with Egypt. And all of you who listen to this message are responsible about your options.”

MUNIER: The Israeli Ministry of Defense is reported to be contacting the Red Crescent and residents of Rafah. Are they urging you to evacuate?

QISHTA: People on the border with Egypt [were] informed by the Red Crescent to leave their houses and to leave the border, because the Red Crescent got a message from the Ministry of Defense asking the people to leave their houses because they’re going to attack the area and maybe occupy the borders. They’re emptying the camps, they’re emptying the houses on the border area. Old friends’ houses, families’ houses, cousins’, they are not on the border; they are somewhere else in Rafah. Yesterday people got so angry after the Israelis’ F-16s attacked the borders that after the attack they went to the wall. They wanted to just show their anger, to ask the Egyptians to open the wall to let these injured to go for treatment. So they didn’t try to [inaudible], but they tried [inaudible] to make the Egyptians accept these patients and take them for treatment. People tried to get inside Sinai, inside the border, but they shot at them, and one killed. And today they started to accept the Palestinian injured, and they got to Egypt, some got to Egypt.

MUNIER: In an interview with Al Jazeera, President Mahmoud Abbas said that he had warned Hamas of the upcoming attacks and said these deaths could have been avoided. What is the attitude in Gaza towards President Abbas right now?

QISHTA: Some people’s angry with all presidents, not just Abbas. They’re angry with all the presidents in the world because they kept helping the Israelis on this attack. The president, Abbas, said something, that he doesn’t like what Israel is doing, but also didn’t take any positive steps to stop that, and I don’t think that the president, Abbas, can do, because the Israelis didn’t listen to any country in the world. So we are enemies for the Israelis; so our president, Abbas, still is enemy for the Israelis too. When the ceasefire started months ago, six months ago, both sides accept the ceasefire, Palestinian side and Israeli side, but how many times the ceasefire broken? They used to go with the fishermen on their boat. Every single day, the Israeli Army and the Israeli Navy broke the ceasefire by shooting at the fishermen. So the ceasefire wasn’t there by the Israeli side; it was just a ceasefire to show to the world media. After the resistance accepted, it’s not just the government here, it’s not just Hamas, it’s all the resistance accept the ceasefire. So now all the resistance refuse the ceasefire, including Hamas.

MUNIER: In a recent press conference, Hamas warned of a resurrection of resistance, including suicide missions, which is a tactic Hamas had abandoned in 2005. Do you foresee an escalation of violence for revenge?

QISHTA: I don’t think that the revenge could come from the government. Revenge could come from the people who lost friends family, neighbors, or lovers. Like the child who survived today and saw her brothers and sister�she was in the middle of them, and they are killed, and she was the only survivor in the family. These are the big suicide bombers for Israel. They’re going to grow up with revenge because they can’t forget the scene that they saw, they can’t forget that they were in their houses and the Israelis targeted these houses and she was the only survivor, all her family killed.

MUNIER: Two Israelis were killed in rocket fire from Gaza recently, supporting Israel’s justification that these attacks are done in the name of security. What is your comment?

QISHTA: The world kept saying, “It’s for Israeli security, so we can destroy the Gaza Strip.” And the one reason is the Israelis’ security, which has no end. I don’t know when the Israeli security is going to be and when they’re going to feel secure. After they’ve killed all the Palestinians?

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Fida Qishta is a freelance journalist and schoolteacher. Qishta has founded a children's center and an afterschool program in Rafah, where she teaches English, French, Arabic, and German from Rafah, Gaza. In 2004 Qishta survived her home being demolished by Israeli Forces.