In two weeks during May, Israeli forces killed at least 45 people and destroyed about 300 homes in the Rafah and Tel al-Sultan refugee camps, devastating the lives of communities who had little enough to begin with...
In two weeks during May, Israeli forces killed at least 45 people and destroyed about 300 homes in the Rafah and Tel al-Sultan refugee camps, devastating the lives of communities who had little enough to begin with. News reports, photographs and video film of the brutal destruction, including a military attack on a peaceful demonstration by unarmed civilians, in which at least 10 people were killed, more than half of them children, were seen around the world. Such was the outrage that for once, even the US refrained from vetoing a UN Security Council resolution mildly criticising the Israelis' actions.
The Israelis claimed that their object was to arrest Palestinian militants and destroy tunnels allegedly used to smuggle arms from Egypt into Ghazzah. These claims were rubbished by neutral observers, who interpreted the wanton destruction as collective punishment for the Palestinians' continuing resistance; the assaults started just days after the destruction of two Israeli armoured vehicles by Palestinian mujahideen, in which 11 Israeli soldiers were killed. This is certainly a more likely explanation.
There is, however, a third and even more chilling explanation: Sharon launched the attacks, the most brutal since the Israeli invasions of Nablus and Jenin in the West Bank in 2002, simply in order to garner domestic support at a time when his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from Ghazzah (along with the effective annexation of large parts of the West Bank) had been rejected by his own party, despite being endorsed by George W. Bush, and his political opponents were accusing him of being soft on the Palestinians. Basically, 45 Palestinians were killed, and thousands more lives destroyed, because Sharon needed a political boost.
The withdrawal from Ghazzah is planned to relieve a major pressure on Israel – Ghazzah is a stronghold of Hamas support, and has proved impossible for Israel to pacify – while enabling it to legitimise its territorial expansionism in the West Bank as a quid pro quo. When Israel was forced to withdraw from Lebanon, it deliberately destroyed everything in its path to try to prevent the Lebanese from claiming their retreat was a victory. If Israel does decide to go ahead with its withdrawal from Ghazzah, the Palestinians can expect many more months like the last one, and the loss of many more lives, before they actually do leave. And there is little to suggest, global outrage notwithstanding, that anyone will do anything to help them.