Operation Rainbow

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Operation Rainbow מבצע קשת בענן is a controversial military operation which began on May 18 2004 in the Gaza Strip. Israel says its aim was to clear "terrorist infrastructure", to find smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt, and to kill militants after the deaths of 13 Israeli soldiers in guerrilla attacks. Israeli security sources said that operation was also aimed at preventing a shipment of Strela-2 (SA-7 Grail) shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, AT-3 Sagger anti-tank guided missiles, and other long-range rockets which are stored on the Egyptian side of the border from being smuggled through tunnels into the Gaza Strip. [1] (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1084677182465)


Contents

Causes

On May 11 and May 12, two armoured personnel carriers of Givati's Dolev combat engineering battalion were destroyed by Palestinian militants. The two separate attacks, in Gaza City's Zeitoun neigbourhood and the Philadelphi Route near Rafah and the Egyptian border, claimed the lives of 11 soldiers. Palestinian Islamic Jihad guerrillas took parts of the remains, mutilating the bodies and disgracing them. [2] (http://www.maarivintl.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&xCache=%7Bts%20%272004%2D05%2D14%2016%3A21%3A46%27%7D&articleID=7175) That caused an outrage in Israel, eventually leading to a massive operation in the neighbourhood of Zeitoun and in Rafah. [3] (http://www.maarivintl.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&xCache=%7Bts%20%272004%2D05%2D14%2016%3A21%3A02%27%7D&articleID=7224),[4] (http://www.maarivintl.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&xCache=%7Bts%20%272004%2D05%2D14%2016%3A21%3A02%27%7D&articleID=7221) After international pressure and aggressive Israeli operation in Zeitoun, the bodies of soldier killed in Zeitoun were returend to Israel and were properly buried.

Missing image
UNambulance-carry-militants01.jpg
Healthy armed Palestinian boarding UNRWA ambulance, Gaza - Zaitoun, May 11, 2004.

In the Zaitoun incident, UNRWA ambulances were allegedly used by militants as transportation for themselves, and perhaps the bodily remains of Israeli soldiers dismembered in the explosion of armored personnel carriers carrying explosives to be used in destroying smuggling tunnels. A Reuters video (http://e.tln0.com/ame/archives/reuters_UN_amblulances_11_may_04.wmv) shows armed militants boarding and being transported by a UNRWA ambulance. In his interview (http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/427679.html) with Haaretz, Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also said that UNRWA's ambulances were used by Palestinian militants in order to smuggle some of the remains of IDF soldiers killed in Zaitoun neigbourhood in Gaza on May 11, 2004. UNRWA confirmed the incident and offered the explanation that the militants forced the driver to take them, but denied they carried body parts.

After two more soldiers killed in Rafah while securing their comrades who searched for the remains of Rafah's fallen, include an incident were one was shot by militants while assisting an old Palestinian women, Israel launched Operation Rainbow which involved Givati forces, reinforced by Golani Brigade soldiers with IDF Achzarit HAPCs, a battlion of officers from the squad-commanders school and serveral armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozers. The aim of Operation Rainbow was to destroy the "terror infrastructure" of Rafah, destroy smuggling tunnels and stop illegal missile shipment.

Events

On May 18, Israeli Defence Forces, mobiled by IDF Achzarit heavy armoured personnel carriers, tanks and back-up by helicopter gunships entered Rafah from the north-eastern Tel-Sultan neigbourhood, after sealing off the entire area in order to prevent movement of miltants into and out of Rafah.

Israeli armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers erected sand-barriers around Rafah to isolate it. Later, the D9s entered into the Rafah in order to detonate booby traps, open routes and demolish houses used by militants.

The IDF and the Israeli government have considered widening the Philadelphi Route (buffer zone), in order to allow a digging of a moat which would block the excavation of tunnels in future. As this would require the destruction of even more houses in the area than were destroyed to create the current buffer, the plan was abandoned in order to find a more humanitarian solution for the residents of southern Rafah.

During the operation, IDF forces arrested several wanted people and exchanged fire with militants. Several bombs and anti-tank missiles were fired against the armored fighting vehicles but caused no damage.

When Palestinian men responded to IDF calls over loudspeakers to turn themselves in to the IDF authorities for questioning, members of Palestinian militant organizations opened fire on them and killed two Palestinian children. A senior officer in Gaza reported yesterday that the IDF have in their possession pictures of this incident, of Palestinians killing their children. The army has not published the pictures. [5] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/430200.html)

Most of the operation was focused on Tel Es-Sultan. This came as a surprise to Palestinians, as this area is relatively far from the border with Egypt. According to Palestinian sources, soldiers entered the area shortly after midnight, taking up positions on the rooftops. Only after the 3rd day of action, IDF forces entered the "Brazil" section.

A zoo located in or adjacent to the "Brazil" section of the Rafah refugee camp was destroyed during the operation. [6] (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0522-03.htm) [7] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/22/international/middleeast/22gaza.html)

During the operation, the IDF claimed to have killed 41 militants and 12 civilians, but claimed that some of them may have been killed by Palestinian fire or explosive charges. Palestinians report 44 killed and 120 wounded, and offered testimony of the killing of many civilians [8] (http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article2741.shtml).

It is not clear when the operation ended. On May 25 2004, the IDF withdrew most of its forces out of Rafah and removed the blockade around it. There are still small IDF forces in Rafah, with the goal of pinpointing smuggling tunnels. On June 1 the operation officially ended.

"Protesters" incident

A group of Palestinians numbering several hundreds approached Israeli military positions and armored vehicles. When called upon to stop, a smaller group continued to approach. Israeli troops fired tank shells in front of or toward the Palestinians. Approximately 10 Palestinians were killed. In a statement the army claimed the protestors included armed gunmen.[9] (http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=20933) Palestinian witnesses claim there were no armed people mingling with the protesters. [10] (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0519-03.htm) [11] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,120331,00.html) Palestinian sources initially reported 22 dead and dozens injured. The number was later reduced to 10, a number confirmed by the Red Cross; however, the IDF claims only seven persons were killed, five armed men and two youths. Israeli officers accused the Palestinians of inflating the number of casualties for a greater international effect as was performed by the Palestinian Authority in Jenin. [12] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/429683.html)

The event caused an outrage among Israeli left-wing activists and helped fuel an international outcry against the operation in Rafah, in a repetition of the effect of inflated claims after Jenin. The IDF issued a statement saying it is sorry for the death of any protestors but denying they deliberately shot them. The Israeli press reported that a tank shot four shells at a empty house in order to deter protesters from marching toward them. Apparently one shell missed and hit the protestors.

Another explanation being suggested by the IDF is that the shell triggered a chain of explosive charges, planted there a few days before by Palestinian militants. [13] (http://www1.idf.il/DOVER/site/mainpage.asp?sl=EN&id=7&docid=31354.EN) Palestinians consider such claims completely baseless. The IDF is investigating the incident.

Results

As of May 23, 2004 only one smuggling tunnel had been found. That tunnel was loaded with explosives. [14] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/international/middleeast/23CND-ISRA.html?pagewanted=2) Since then 2 more tunnels have been destroyed. Israel claims more than 40 militants have been killed and an unknown number wounded.

Pictures from Rafah shows a devastated city: most of the roads were damaged due to explosive charges and the action of using armored bulldozers to plow up the asphalt in order to expose and detonate explosives planted under the roads, thus clearing a way for armored fighting vehicles and troops. On some roads there are still sand-barriers.

Image:IsraeliBulldozers.jpg

There are contradictary reports on the number of houses demolished. The U.N. relief agency UNRWA and other rights groups said the army had demolished some 180 homes. Later UNRWA changed their claims and said only 45 houses were razed, leaving about 575 people homeless. [15] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/431683.html) Several UNRWA press releases contain numbers that vary significantly over the course of a few days. (See UNRWA) The Israeli Army reports only 56 structures have been demolished. Additional structures have been damaged to varying degrees due to weapons fire.[16] (http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-mideast-rafah.html)

Human rights group report on the harsh conditions in Rafah: in some places sewage and water pipes were damaged due to operations by bulldozers, resulting in floods and risk of disease. According to the IDF, Israel offered humanitarian aid and allowed NGOs and welfare organizations to enter Rafah and distribute food and medicine. Israeli supreme court chief judge professor Aharon Barak, praised the Israeli Defence Forces for their humanitarian aid in Rafah. [17] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/430399.html)

As of May 24, 2004 Brigadier-General Shmuel Zakai, the commander of forces in Gaza reported in a press conference that 41 terrorists and 12 civilians had been killed.

"We killed 41 terrorists, found and destroyed three tunnels and a hole used for digging a tunnel. We arrested terror activists connected to the building of the tunnels."

Zakkai also said that:

"56 structures have been demolished by the IDF. Most of the buildings that were destroyed were due to being fired upon by IDF forces and others were demolished because they used for preparing explosives. Additionally, some buildings were damaged because IDF forces were forced to go through them in order to avoid explosive charges on the streets. Among the houses demolished is the house of the terrorist who murdered Tali Hatuel and her 4 daughters."

Source: Hebrew (http://news.walla.co.il/?w=//547595), English (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/431683.html) 1

Palestinians report that 55 people were killed but claim that "only 12 were known to be armed". They also said more than 70 houses were demolished.

Footnotes

1 Haaretz translation (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/431683.html) differs little from what appears here and has some mistakes in content, therefore the Wikipedia translation of the Hebrew source (http://news.walla.co.il/?w=//547595) is the one to appear in the body of this article.

External links

de:Operation Regenbogen it:operazione arcobaleno

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