How Palestinians in Rafah support Gaza fighters against Israel

Acts such as leaving food, water, funds and other non-lethal material for combatants does not constitute “direct participation” in armed conflict and civilians who do so do not lose their status nor the protections owed to them. [Getty]

Despite personal political differences with Hamas and opposition to the Islamic movement’s attack on Israeli military bases and civilian settlements on 7 October, Mohammed, a Palestinian displaced to Rafah, decided to support Palestinian fighters in their confrontation against the Israeli army

The 39-year-old father of three came up with the idea three months ago when he heard that “the fighters mostly do not eat as they are busy confronting the Israeli soldiers, and they may spend many days with having suitable food.” 

The young man, who preferred to keep his family name anonymous for security reasons, told The New Arab, “When I was preparing the staff of my family to evacuate our houses based on Israeli threats of attacking our area, I remembered our fighters and asked myself how they would deal with food if they got stuck inside my house.”

This is why Mohammed decided to act in his own small way by leaving food, water, and some money for Palestinian fighters trying to battle against the invading Israeli army.  

“In light of the famine and lack of resources in the Gaza Strip, the fighter can only carry a few dates and a little water, so I think such food and extra water will help them,” the young man said. “The fighters are a source of strength for us, and we must all confront the criminal Israeli army with any and all means available to us (…) We are all responsible for our land and are required to protect it with all the resources we have.”

In order to encourage the Palestinian fighters to eat, Mohammed also wrote a letter, saying, “This food and water, my brother, is for you to eat and drink, and may God protect you and protect our people.”

“This is too little I can do to stand with my brothers in the resistance, but I hope that what I left will be enough for those who will take refuge in my home,” he added to TNA.

Mohammed’s idea gradually spread among others in Rafah.

“We know very well that the Israeli army will not leave our homes untouched, even if the army enters them, so our message to our fighters will be like a dagger with which we can stab them psychologically, especially since they will know that we support our resistance and our fighters and that we are the owners of the land and not occupiers like them,” he remarked. 

On 11 May, the Israeli army began expanding its military operation in Rafah after demanding residents evacuate their homes and subsequently destroyed civilian infrastructure, bombed numerous homes, and committing several massacres against civilians.

“In such circumstances, civilians can do nothing but flee the chaos of death that Israel imposes on us,” Samih, another Rafah-based Palestinian, said to TNA. “We tried hard to hold out in our homes, but unfortunately the ‘Nazi’ Israeli army treated us brutally and bombed homes over the heads of many civilians,” the 52-year-old father of four said. 

Therefore, Samih noted, “When I decided to leave, I left food, drink and first aid supplies for the fighters to use if they sought refuge in our vacated house.”

For her part, Maryam, a Palestinian woman based in Rafah, left three small portable batteries with several LED lights in her house in case Palestinian fighters needed them when they entered the house.

A mother of seven, Maryam told TNA, “Although we are civilians, an Israeli bombardment of a mosque next to us killed three of my sons(…) We are all under the Israeli attacks, and we must all take revenge on these criminals with any means available to us.”

“I have seen in many videos published by the resistance that fighters use small batteries in rocket launching operations, so I feared that the resistance might need them if they entered my house,” she added. 

She further said there should be no difference between a man and a woman in Gaza when confronting the “Israeli enemy”. “Everyone knows what they must do to fight it, and if it is not with weapons, it is by helping the fighters and facilitating their field missions,” she said.

“I know very well that if we were a people who possessed weapons, the Israeli army would not have been able to penetrate one centimetre into Gaza because we would simply have turned our land into graveyards to bury their dead (…) This is our legitimate right to defend ourselves and our land against a criminal occupying army,” she stressed. 

In international law, particularly according to the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 and the 1977 Additional Protocol I, there is a clear distinction between civilians and combatants. Accordingly, a “civilian person” is “any individual who is not a member of the armed forces” and are thus granted protection from the dangers of war.

Despite claims by Israel that there are “no innocent civilians in Gaza“, international law emphasises “the presence, within the civilian population, of isolated individuals who do not come under the definition of civilians shall not deprive the population as a whole of its civilian character or of the protection to which it is entitled”.

Moreover, the relevant conventions stress that in moments when civilians may take part in hostilities without formally belonging to any regular armed force in the context of occupied territories or internal armed conflicts still keep their status as civilians despite the fact that they directly participate in hostilities, but temporarily lose the protection for the duration of direct participation. 

Acts such as leaving food, water, funds and other non-lethal material for combatants does not constitute “direct participation” in armed conflict and civilians who do so do not lose their status nor the protections owed to them. 

Meanwhile, a recent UN report by an independent commission has criticised Israel’s deliberate targetting of civilians, including innocent men, women and children, in what is it described is a war crime, a crime against humanity, a crime of extermination and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

“ISF’s intentional use of heavy weapons with large destructive capacity in densely populated areas constitutes an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population, particularly affecting women and children,” the Commission said, adding that this was confirmed by the substantial and increasing numbers of casualties, over weeks and months, with “no change in Israeli policies or military strategies.”

Israel’s war on Gaza, now in its ninth month, has killed 37,164 Palestinians—mostly women and children—and injured at least 84,832 people. 

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