The Israeli army’s Operation Rainbow was the most violent in Gaza in years, according to Palestinian sources.
More than 60 Palestinians were killed, hundreds wounded and thousands displaced, all within the first week of the Israeli attack.
The following is a selection of statements made in connection with the Rafah refugee camp onslaught.
President George Bush speaking to newspaper editors, 21 April:
“Ariel Sharon came to America, and he stood up with me and he said, ‘We are pulling out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank.’
“[In] my judgment, the whole world should have said, ‘Thank you, Ariel. Now we have a chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state’.”
Statement by EU foreign ministers, 17 May:
“The council condemned the large-scale demolition of Palestinian houses in Rafah as disproportionate and in conflict with international law. The council called on the Israeli government to cease such demolitions immediately.”
“…calls on Israel to respect international
US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya in Germany, 17 May:
“We’ve been particularly concerned that – we understand the need to fight terrorism, the need for Israel to defend itself – but we also recognise that Israel is going to have to live next door to the Palestinians.
“And so creating conditions which are not conducive to the emergence of peaceful, democratic Palestine is the problem. And we’ve talked to them time and again about demolition of housing … about those kind of issues.”
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, 18 May:
“The British government is wholly opposed to this policy and practice of demolishing houses in this way by the Israeli Defence Force.”
President George Bush speaking to the Israeli lobby AIPAC, 18 May:
Israel has the “right to self defence”.
UN Security Council Resolution 1544, 19 May:
The resolution expresses grave concern at “the recent demolition of homes committed by Israel, the occupying power, in the Rafah refugee camp”.
It “calls on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and insists, in particular, on its obligation not to undertake demolition of homes contrary to that law”.
Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman following a vote for UNSC Resolution 1544, 19 May:
The resolution does not carry a “call on Israel to stop its activity and did not call on Israel to stop the demolition of houses.
“We will continue to do what we must do to protect our citizens.”
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, 25 May:
“The retreat from Gaza must be complete and sincere and viable. That means Gaza will not be destroyed before the withdrawal.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Territories John Dugard, 19 May:
“The Special Rapporteur calls on the Security Council to take appropriate action to stop the violence, if necessary by the imposition of mandatory arms embargo on Israel of the kind that was imposed on South Africa in 1977.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, 19 May:
The British PM Tony Blair made a
“We entirely understand the concern of Israel about acts of terrorism but what happened yesterday was unacceptable and wrong.”
Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, 19 May:
“It is clear that today’s action was completely disproportionate to any threat faced by the Israeli military and that Israeli forces showed a reckless disregard for human life.”
Amnesty International, 19 May:
“Israel’s unjustified destruction of thousands of Palestinian and Arab Israeli homes as well as vast areas of agricultural land has reached an unprecedented level and must stop immediately.”
Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat, 19 May:
“What is happening in Rafah is a large massacre which has been planned, and they [the Israelis] are saying it will continue.
“The murders, the destructions and the [population] transfers cannot be tolerated by the Palestinians or by the international community.”
Le Monde, French newspaper, 20 May:
“When will we see an end to these acts of collective punishment in Rafah? Nobody is apparently able to halt this frenzy of killings which fuels anti-Israeli sentiments.”
Al-Haq, human rights group in Ram Allah, 20 May:
“At a point when it is evident that Israeli authorities consider themselves above the law, the international community must act. Failure to do so is not merely morally wrong, it is complicity in war crimes.”
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, 20 May:
“[We] strongly condemn these grave violations of international law and call on the Israeli army to immediately cease firing upon ambulances and civilians and to stop interfering with the evacuation of the wounded.”
Israeli Justice Minister Tommy Lapid during the weekly Cabinet meeting, 23 May:
Israeli minister Lapid argues
Israel’s “demolition of houses in Rafah must stop. It is not humane, not Jewish, and causes us grave damage in the world.
“At the end of the day, they’ll kick us out of the United Nations, try those responsible in the international court in The Hague, and no one will want to speak with us.
“I was in the United States last week, and I noticed that we look like monsters to the rest of the world”.
Islamic Jihad commander Shaher Abu Radi at a funeral for Rafah victims, 24 May:
“Our martyrs will savour the rest they deserve. We will continue our struggle until we have taken back our capital al-Quds [Jerusalem].”
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, 25 May:
Between 18 and 24 May, “a total of 167 buildings in the Tal al-Sultan, Brazil and Salam quarters of Rafah were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. These buildings housed 379 families or 2066 individuals.
“In total, between 1 and 24 May, 277 buildings, housing 641 families and a total of 3451 individuals, have been demolished in Rafah.”
Brother of Ramzi al-Maghari, killed by Israeli soldiers in Rafah, 25 May:
“My brother raised a white flag in order not to be harmed, but the occupation troops shot him dead anyway. They killed him though they ordered us to leave our homes to avoid shootings.”
Peter Hansen, head of the UNRWA, 25 May:
“I think that the destruction is probably even worse than I’ve seen, and is indeed completely, completely unacceptable.”