Rafah Destruction – Taken by Louisa Waugh – flickr

Rafah Invasion Brings Israel’s Genocidal Campaign to Unprecedented Level
More war and famine will lead to physical destructions of civilians in Gaza

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies is horrified by Israel’s decision to intensify its assault on the Gaza strip and carry out a ground operation in Rafah while halting desperately needed provisions of humanitarian aid into Gaza. The silence of Israel’s allies and Arab countries and their continued enabling of Israel’s persistent war crimes is appalling. CIHRS urgently calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and reminds Israel’s allies and neighboring countries of their collective complicity in the genocide unfolding in Gaza through their silence, financial assistance and arms trade with Israel.

“The international community must act now, not only to pressure for an immediate and permanent ceasefire but to also uphold its role in what the ICJ and several experts have qualified as plausibly the crime of genocide. Israel’s allies must, as a bare minimum, end their financial contribution to Israel’s war crimes, by withholding financial assistance and arms supplies from Israel, or risk being found liable for the crime of complicity in genocide,” said Amna Guellali, Research Director at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Attempts for a ceasefire deal have not been successful, despite numerous proposals and negotiations. On 7 May, Hamas accepted the terms for a ceasefire deal, but Israel launched a military offensive on Rafah just hours later. On 6 May, after months of warnings by human rights institutions and experts, including CIHRS, of the humanitarian consequences of a ground operation in Rafah, Israel sent a warning to Palestinians in eastern Rafah to ‘evacuate’ for an ‘expanded humanitarian area’ in Al-Mawasi, ahead of a ‘ground incursion’. The same day, Israel intensified its attacks on the area, reportedly killing at least 23 people, including a child. Overnight, Israel took control of the Rafah border crossing and halted entry of humanitarian aid from this crossing, without presenting an alternative. Since October 2023, the Rafah border crossing, located on the Egypt-Gaza border, has been a crucial entry point of humanitarian aid into Gaza and the only exit point for sick and wounded Palestinians. Two days prior to this decision, Israel also halted entry of humanitarian aid from the other main entry point, Karem Abu Salem, at the Gaza-Israel-Egypt border.

Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost region, houses approximately 1.5 million displaced Palestinians who were forced to flee to the region after Israel declared it a ‘safe zone’, and warned approximately 1.1 million Palestinians in North Gaza to relocate to the South within 24 hours, only to attack some civilians on the road while fleeing. Between 7 October 2023 and 6 May 2024, more than 34,735 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, of whom at least 14,500 are children and 9,500 are women, and 78,108 Palestinians were injured.

“Almost 35,000 people have been brutally killed in seven months, while two million people are at risk of famine and subject to horrendous humanitarian conditions. When will this bloodshed be considered enough for Israel’s allies to end their passive complicity?” Amna Guellali added.

Israel has not only failed to provide people with sufficient time and a safe route to leave by 6 May, but even more gravely, Israel has failed to provide them with a safe place to go for refuge. While Israel designated Al-Mawasi as a safe area, in reality, nowhere in Gaza is safe. Israeli bombardment from the air, land, and sea continues to be reported across much of the Gaza Strip, resulting in further civilian casualties, displacement, and destruction of houses and other civilian infrastructure. Al-Mawasi is already an overcrowded area and lacks the necessary infrastructure and conditions to house hundreds of thousands of additional  people.

The ground invasion into Rafah will undoubtedly lead to more horrifying bloodshed. Israel’s intensified assault on Rafah will not only increase forced displacement of Palestinians but will also further disrupt the already acute lack of access to humanitarian aid, health care and basic needs. On 24 April, WFP warned in a press briefing that there is “reasonable evidence that all three famine thresholds: food insecurity, malnutrition, mortality, will be passed in the next six weeks in Gaza”, adding that some people are already dying of hunger, with 1.1 million people projected to be at catastrophic levels of food insecurity in Gaza by July 2024. Access to health care is worsening and as of 7 May, only seven hospitals in Southern Gaza remain partially functioning, and three of these hospitals are in Rafah and will become unsafe to reach. This will further strain the other four partially-functioning hospitals in Khan Younis and Deir el Balah. These hospitals are already critically affected by the security conditions, destroyed roads and infrastructure, and limited available equipment and medications.

Humanitarian conditions in Gaza are already at an unprecedented crisis point and will only worsen after the Rafah ground operation. Since Israel’s intensified attacks on Rafah, Palestinians have fled to other areas in southern and central Gaza including Khan Younis and Deir al Balah. These areas are already overcrowded and suffering from limited access to humanitarian aid and basic services. In April and May 2024, CIHRS spoke with thirteen Palestinian Gazans located in these areas, some of whom testified that they have not received any humanitarian assistance in three months, while others shared that they only received basic food assistance on a sporadic basis. All of the interviewees live in overcrowded shelters with no access to drinking water and limited access to food, with all of them sharing that there have been many days where they ate less than one meal per day, while their main food source is canned foods.

The closure of the Rafah border and the influx of hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Palestinians will only exacerbate this dire situation. The people that CIHRS spoke with had also shared that while fresh foods and drinking water are available for purchase, they remain too expensive and inaccessible for most. With Israel’s assault on Rafah and its closure of borders for aid provisions, this crisis will predictably worsen, especially as it will lead to an increased demand and prices for products together with the consequent increase in product shortages.

The catastrophe in Gaza requires the urgent adoption of an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and the rapid expansion of humanitarian aid provision to ensure that the basic needs of Palestinians in Gaza are met. The failure to protect Palestinians in Gaza from further violence falls not only on Israel, but also on the states that continue to provide it with the political or financial backing that has enabled it to carry out these violations that meet the threshold of genocide.

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