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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Rafah dominates Mid- East press

Israel's "Operation Rainbow" in the Rafah refugee camp, in which dozens of Palestinians have been killed or injured, sparks fierce debate throughout the Middle East.

Papers in Israel are split, with one commentator branding the operation "illegitimate", whilst another says it is necessary "to foil murderous intentions".

Arabic dailies condemn the Israeli action unanimously, with some accusing the US of collusion, and one harshly criticising President Bush for closing his eyes "to this human disaster".

The government says that the Palestinians themselves are responsible for the hardship inflicted on the civilian population and that its hands committed no foul deed... But the fact is that civilians are not fleeing from Palestinian thugs, but from us; it is not because of the Palestinian bullies that they are packing their chattels and leaving their homes, but because of us. A military operation that takes into consideration wide-scale harm to civilians is illegitimate.

Yossi Sarid in Israel's Yediot Aharonot

Israel Defence Forces soldiers are fighting in Rafah to foil murderous intentions. If, in this hard war, IDF soldiers fall victim, God forbid, their death will not be in vain, but the terrible price Israel is forced to pay to exist and survive.

Dov Goldstein in Israel's Maariv

Neither the armed men, nor the weapons smuggled through the tunnels, are a strategic threat to Israel. But the danger posed by the armed men and the tunnels is so exaggerated, that the statistics of destruction and death sown by Israel in Rafah go largely ignored - in Israel. In Rafah, on the other hand, it feeds the conclusion reached by a religious lawyer: "Everyone in Israel -opposition, left, Labour - bears responsibility for what their government is doing."

Amira Hass in Israel's Haaretz

This war is just. We have the simple, natural right to self-defence despite all the quibbling of the doves of peace. And whoever calls IDF soldiers "war criminals" should himself sit in the dock, for he wants to render meaningless the death of those who died in the war for us in defence of our lives.

Aryeh Eldad in Israel's Yediot Aharonot

At a time when Israeli army bulldozers are demolishing hundreds of houses in Rafah camp and making thousands of people homeless... George Bush closes his eyes to this human disaster to woo the Jewish votes saying: "Israel has the right to defend itself". But Israel is defending its occupation, not itself.

Palestinian Al-Quds

America and Israel have breached all rules of justice and law. The leading bunch of terrorists are swimming in destruction, crimes and torture.

Tawfiq Amarinah in Palestinian Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah

Israel will not be able to decide the outcome of the Rafah battle no matter what are the immediate results. It will not be able to deter the Palestinians from practising their right of resistance and legitimate self-defence. The occupation has become harmful to Israel.

Hassan Al-Batal in Palestinian Al-Ayyam

There is no consolation for the people of Rafah. However, the spirit of faith, will and firmness will remain capable of defeating the occupation which deals with its weakness by killing more.

Yasir al-Za'atirah in Jordan's Al-Dustur

Israel has exceeded itself in killings and destroying homes throughout the week in the Gaza Strip. It is doing so in the assurance that no-one can stop its crimes. To be more precise, there is someone who approves what it is doing. The US does not stop repeating: Israel should do whatever it can to defend itself. Israel feels its back is protected by this.

Saudi Al-Jazirah

Those who are really responsible for what is happening in Rafah are those who released the hand of savagery and gave guarantees for the present and future. This is a truth which cannot be hidden by the statements made by US officials. The US must translate its reserved objection to the destruction in Rafah into practical action, which will prove its credibility.

Egypt's Al-Jumhuriyah

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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