Photo: Tom Hurndall
"To understand daily life in Rafah is beyond the capability of most foreigners. Only by paying a visit is it possible to understand how people survive in a city that is almost completely surrounded by hostile tanks and gun towers, and loses portions of its border almost daily. Since the start of the second Palestinian Intifada, the Israeli Defense Forces have embarked on a slow, but monumental campaign of demolishing homes along the Egyptian border to the south and the Israeli settlements to the west. After conducting a few massive demolitions in July 2001 and again in January 2002, which garnered international condemnation, the IDF has resorted to slow and piecemeal destruction instead. In its now gradual method, over the past three months some 200 more homes have been demolished, brining the total in Rafah to over 600. This doesn’t include the vast areas of orchards, gardens and greenhouses so critical to this impoverished city’s food supplies.
Before arriving at the house, owned by a local policeman named Monsour, I asked Rachel what the nightly situation was like in Brazil camp. “Oh, theirs is a good deal of ambient gunfire usually. But nothing much.” she casually described it. The term “ambient gunfire” stuck in my head. In my previous stays in Rafah the year before, I had been further from the frontline but still heard machinegun bursts and tank shells into the night. I thought it was a particularly nerve-wracking experience. I had no idea how much worse it was at the front."