Categories: Middle East

Resistance to border blockades and massacres — Then and now, Israel targets Khan Younis, Rafah

As Israel broke the seven-day ceasefire and resumed its intense bombing of Gaza, two Palestinian cities, Rafah and Khan Younis, were immediately targeted in the southern end of Gaza. These are the very cities that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) had forcibly demanded that Palestinians move toward.

The destruction in Rafah, Oct. 15, 2023.  Credit:  Electronic Intifada

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has charged that “The city of Khan Younis faces a Zionist holocaust with an American green light and direct planning.”

Over 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the bombing since the cease-fire ended. (tinyurl.com/5dv7yjcw)

Refugees in Rafah and Khan Younis have experienced notorious and well-documented past Zionist massacres and massive displacements. This history of destruction and heroic resistance continues today.

Rafah is a densely populated border city. Claiming they are looking for tunnels which for years have been used to smuggle desperately needed supplies and resistance weapons into Gaza, the Israeli military have continually bombed and bulldozed whole sections of this small city. Densely packed areas have been flooded with sea water, poisoning the land, in an effort to flood the tunnels.

According to many international media sources, including the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, Israel is assembling a whole system of pumps at Rafah to once again flood Gaza’s tunnels with thousands of cubic meters of sea water per hour at Rafah, Khan Younis, Gaza City and other sites. (tinyurl.com/7v2pf287)

Khan Younis, just north of Rafah, now has a population of 426,000 and is the largest city in south Gaza. Most of Gaza’s population has been pushed into this tight area of Rafah and Khan Younis. Both cities are now being bombed.

Rafah – the choke point

Rafah is the site of the Rafah border crossing, the sole crossing point between Egypt and the State of Palestine. Even in the Oslo Accords, which supposedly recognized the right of a small, fractured Palestinian state to exist alongside a fully armed and expanding Israeli state, Israel secured total control of all of Palestine’s borders. Technically, Egypt controls the Rafah crossing, but all imports through the Rafah crossing require Israeli approval.

How is this possible?

In the 1967 Six-Day-War, Israel conquered and took control of both the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt. It also seized the West Bank from Jordan and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. Within Gaza, Israel seized land for 21 Israeli settlements, again displacing refugees from the 1948 Nakba.

Under terms of the 1978 U.S.-brokered Camp David Accords, Egypt recognized the State of Israel, established relations with Israel, broke with the Soviet Union and received billions of dollars in U.S. military aid. In return, Israel agreed to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. However, Israel maintained its occupation of Gaza.

The new border between Egypt and Israel cut through the Palestinian city of Rafah. The Gazan side and the Egyptian side of Rafah were separated by barbed wire fences, dividing families. The core of the city was destroyed, then bulldozed to create a wide buffer zone.

The U.S. orchestrated this deal and twice reinforced it, giving Israel full control of Egypt‘s sole border crossing with Gaza.

The arduous border crossing system maintains the myth of Egyptian border control. But Israel painstakingly combs through all the trucks, which are thoroughly scanned and searched, checking every box and blocking many essential supplies. Any item deemed unfit to enter Gaza – even small kitchen knives, scissors and gas canisters for heat – is an excuse to turn back the whole truck. This “inspection” is now required for all United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) trucks and International Red Crescent and Red Cross trucks, plus all other humanitarian agencies’ supplies.

The inspection process obligates drivers to take a round trip of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Rafah to a crossing on Egypt’s border with Israel and then to an Israeli inspection site at Nitzana. This has caused complete bottlenecks lasting for days. The U.N. has lobbied Israel to open the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing near Rafah, which used to handle large quantities of goods before the war. But Israel has refused.The resistance is the whole people

U.N. officials have said that before Oct. 7, an average of 500 trucks used to enter the Strip daily. Then Israel closed all access, along with turning off electricity, internet service and access to fuel in Gaza. During the cease-fire, 200 trucks a day were to be allowed entry as agreed to in negotiations, but the grueling Israeli inspection process made that an impossible number.

Israel has built rings of steel, barbed wire and surveillance cameras around every inch of Gaza’s border. It has total control of the sea and air. The Zionists use this border control at Rafah as a choke point to calculate daily the level of pain and deprivation imposed.

Hamas won election, U.S./Israel imposed sanctions

Based on 38 years of determined Palestinian resistance, in 2005 Israeli settlers were forced to withdraw from their captured land of 21 settlements in Gaza. They destroyed every tree on the roadsides, along with totally destroying orchards, vines, greenhouses, irrigation systems and all buildings – everything in the well-subsidized settlements they had seized on the richest land. Despite the settlers’ vengeful destruction, this withdrawal was a huge victory for Palestinian resistance.

The following year, Hamas overwhelmingly won elections in Gaza, sponsored and overseen by the U.N. In response, both Israel and the U.S. tightened the ring of steel around Gaza. All normal trade and transit through Gaza was cut off. U.S. sanctions threatened any country that dared trade with Gaza. Even U.N. shipments to refugees, who make up 80% of the population, were withheld for months by inspections that cut essential supplies.

In the 17 years of total lockdown since Hamas won the election, Zionist forces have launched four major military assaults on Gaza – in 2008-2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021 – attempting to destroy the spirit of resistance. Each assault sharpened the anger and strengthened the levels of coordinated resistance.

Khan Younis massacre

In 1948, Gaza was considered part of Egypt. More than 80% of its population were Palestinian refugees driven out of Palestine during the Nakba that created the State of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes and livelihoods were housed in vast tent cities and totally dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. These vast refugee camps gradually became densely populated apartment buildings, shops, and markets, connected by narrow alleys.

One of the largest massacres of Palestinians took place over several weeks starting on Nov. 3, 1956, when Gaza was part of Egypt. That was eight years after the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly driven from their homes in Palestine. It was part of the effort by Israel, France and Britain to take over the Suez Canal from Egypt. The Zionists were determined to destroy the Fedayeen, the Palestinian resistance movement dominant at that time.

After a heavy bombing campaign on the town, Israeli infantry and tanks entered Khan Younis to “root out” the Fedayeen. A researched article in Palestine Chronicle quotes from Salman Abu Sitta’s memoir “Mapping My Return.” He described how all the young men ages 16 to 50 were ordered to the public square:

“They led them in single file and lined them up against the wall… in the town’s main square. As they gathered, the assembled teachers, the bank clerks, the shopkeepers, the tradesmen, and the farmers looked as ordinary as they would on any other day.

“An officer stood in his jeep as if to salute. He looked from one side to another. The officer raised his hand high, and lowered it down quickly like a chopping knife. Bursts of machine gun shattered the silence on and off, left and right. The machine guns rang out in unison, then separately…. Those who refused to go to the Town Square were killed at home, in front of their families.”

Abed El-Aziz El-Rantisi, the senior official of Hamas, assassinated by an Israeli missile in 2004, was nine years old that day when he witnessed the killing of his uncle in Khan Younis: “It left a wound in my heart that can never heal. … They planted hatred in our hearts.”

UNRWA later assembled a list of the names of 275 people known killed. Then other mass graves were found. The indiscriminate killings continued until Nov. 12 as the Israeli occupation forces continued their massacres, estimated at over 1,000 deaths.

Another massacre took place in November 1956 in Rafah, where more than 100 Palestinians were executed after being ordered to appear in the town square.

The journalist and author Joe Sacco wrote a 2009 graphic novel, “Footnotes in Gaza,” which meticulously uncovered the horrific events that had taken place in Gaza in 1956 through eyewitness accounts. (tinyurl.com/454kczhp)

On the anniversary of the massacre in Khan Younis, the Jordan News recounted the event on Nov. 13. (tinyurl.com/wzjmm496)

The resistance is the whole people

An article in the Washington Post on Dec. 3 explained the problem facing the Zionists and U.S. imperialism. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas militarily and as a governing authority.

“But after more than 15 years in power in Gaza, Hamas and its supporters are deeply embedded in every sector of society — not only in the government ministries they run, but also in charities, courts, mosques, sport teams, jails, municipalities and youth groups.

“The de facto governing body in the Gaza Strip since 2007, when it ousted the Palestinian Authority from power, Hamas has overseen the economy, health care, water and electricity, trade and infrastructure. It runs the security forces in Gaza — not only the militant brigades, like Qassam, now fighting Israeli forces in the streets, but also the regular police force, including traffic cops.” (tinyurl.com/562763bb)

This is the crux of the problem. The Israeli forces can’t get rid of the resistance with bombs – although they can once again wreak great suffering and destruction. Israel is losing the war internally and internationally. It is losing equipment and personnel. There are pitched battles in the West Bank and daily rockets being fired from Lebanon.

The Zionists were incapable of destroying the resistance when in 1956 they executed all men over the age of 16 in Khan Younis and Rafah. The resistance arose in new forms. Now all the political currents are coming together. Hamas is one with a unified Palestinian resistance, fighting together in all of Palestine.

Sara Flounders

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Sara Flounders

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