The airstrike on the Rafah market during the humanitarian ceasefire on Friday was apparently a ‘revenge attack’ for the killing of two soldiers and the abduction of one which took place earlier that morning in the city, according to local reports. But while the attack on the market clearly took place in the midst of the humanitarian ceasefire, the attack on the invading soldiers took place well before the ceasefire was set to begin.The al-Qassam Brigades issued a statement Saturday saying, ‘What happened east of Rafah Friday morning was that occupation forces took advantage of the alleged humanitarian ceasefire to penetrate our land for more than two kilometers”.
“After its blatant aggression and violation of the ceasefire, the enemy [Israel] began to spread the lie that the resistance violated the truce. We confirm that over the past twenty days no Zionist soldier had any presence in the eastern area of Rafah. After the announcement that a ceasefire agreement had been reached, the enemy [Israeli military] began to move in that area and at precisely 2am made an incursion 2.5 kms east of Rafah.
‘This leaves no room for doubt about the enemy’s intention to violate the truce and infringe on our territory and our defenseless people. Faced with this Zionist advance, at precisely 7am our fighters engaged with the invading forces and caused a large number of deaths and injuries in their ranks.”
In a statement early on Saturday morning, Qassam explained how it had understood the ceasefire:
“We notified the mediators that took part in arranging the humanitarian ceasefire that we agree to a ceasefire with regard to the sites that we target in Zionist cities and towns, but from an operational standpoint we cannot cease firing toward forces that have entered the [Gaza] Strip and are operating and moving constantly. This means that it is possible for any invading force to encounter one of our units and this could lead to clashes.”
They said they had hoped that the ceasefire would still be able to continue, despite the Israeli violations, but the airstrikes that had been ongoing from 8 am were expanded with the attack on the market at 10 am, at which point the ceasefire fell apart.
A later statement added, ‘We lost contact with a group of fighters … when Israeli occupation forces penetrated east of Rafah. We suspect that they were all killed by Israeli shelling, including the Israeli soldier who, supposedly, was abducted by the group.’
The Israeli military claimed that the attack on the soldiers took place after the ceasefire began, saying ‘an attack … executed against (Israeli) forces operating to decommission a tunnel’ occurred at 9:30 am.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Hamas for what he claimed was a ‘barbaric violation of the ceasefire.” He further stated that the U.S. ‘unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers, and abducting a third almost minutes after a ceasefire had been announced.’
But the actual sequence of events does not line up with the Israeli claim, which was reiterated almost verbatim by the U.S. President.
Tweets by journalists and medics of casualties and airstrikes by Israeli forces in Rafah began to come in just after 8 am (the time that the ceasefire was set to begin), challenging the Israeli claim that the confrontation between the soldiers and the resistance fighters took place at 9:30.
At around 10 am, Israeli airstrikes hit a crowded market, killing 50 people who had come out of their homes during what was supposed to be a ceasefire in order to gather supplies.
This follows a similar attack by Israeli forces on a crowded market in Shuja’eyya during the previously-declared ‘temporary humanitarian ceasefire’ on Wednesday. That attack killed 17 civilians, mainly women and children out shopping for food and supplies.
For more, see a report by The Electronic Intifada (linked below) on the timeline of the breaking of Friday’s ceasefire.