3 Aug 2014

Troops ordered to pull back in Gaza, but the killing didn’t stop

Warning: distressing images in this blog

Last night, Binyamin Netanyahu thanked his allies, Britain and America, and ordered a pullback of Israeli troops.

But the killing didn’t stop. 

Rafah, the border town that is home to the smuggling tunnels that keep Gaza alive, has been sealed off since yesterday morning.

This was the area where Lt Hadar Goldin was alleged to have been captured on Friday. This was the area where farmers were shot down in their fields as the Israelis frantically searched for him.

But as much of the world’s news media reported, without qualification, the Israeli claim of his capture, it turned out Lt Goldin was dead.

And so are around 20 people in Rafah, killed in an Israeli bombardment overnight, on top of maybe 60 killed in the Rafah-Khan Younis area yesterday.

Rafah’s acute hospital is evacuated. By phone we heard there are maybe 400 injured. We headed south to get there but only got as far as Khan Younis, approx 7km away.

As we tried to go down the road to Rafah, local people told us “Are you mad?”

Israel imposed a curfew. Then, amid the targeting of homes full of civilians – a drone strike hit a motorcycle passing the entrance to the UNRWRA school in Rafah. At least seven are dead.

I spoke to witnesses in Khan Younis hospital. The ICU there is full so they have set up a makeshift one.

Let me describe a makeshift ICU: three beds, three pathetic antiquated heart monitors, three drips and a doctor on the verge of tears.

One man moans intermittently, another lifts his head to talk: one side of his body is ripped by shrapnel. The third occupant is two years old. She will live but the doctors believe her entire close family were wiped out.

The IDF’s Rafah operation is a different kind of war.

Surrounding a town, allowing only serious casualties out and no civilian traffic in; refusing to give any information to us when we call to ask for a safe route in; bombing relentlessly; forcing a hospital to close.

Nowhere else have we seen this yet in this three-week Gaza conflict.

I’ve heard Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has an email inbox full of concern from Brits over “what they’re seeing on TV”.  I can tell you they will be concerned some more when they see what is happening in Rafah.

Whatever the British government is getting in return for “unshakeable” support for Israel, it is not restraint.

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