Chaos and panic in Rafah as Israel orders thousands to evacuate

Civilians sitting on top rubble. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected by the evacuation orders as Israel’s attack on Rafah, Gaza intensifies.

There are no safe zones in Gaza as Israeli attacks on Rafah force hundreds of thousands of people to flee and threaten the delivery of new aid supplies. 

More than 150,000 people have fled Rafah in recent days. A further 300,000 people are affected by the evacuation orders as Israel’s attack on Rafah spreads and intensifies. 

Rafah and its border crossing are a lifeline to the people in the enclave where thousands have been killed. They are a hub of aid agency operations for people weeks away from widespread famine. Now this area too is facing destruction as the invasion escalates. 

The Israeli forces have been attacking Rafah with artillery, ground troops, demolition operations, and aerial bombardments. Violence is rapidly expanding. People in the city live in fear amid the attacks and threatened further invasion. 

Civilians who flee face even greater challenges

Many people are walking miles to search for shelter, carrying whatever possessions they can. Extremely vulnerable people including malnourished infants, elderly people, injured and sick patients, and people with severe disabilities are among those ordered to move.  

Most are now sheltering in horrific conditions, without adequate access to food, water or other essentials.  This includes the designated evacuation site of Al Mawasi. Israel claimed this site as a“safe” area. However, many evacuees are still subject to impending famine, lack of shelter, spread of disease, and scarce healthcare availability. 

Al Mawasi is a sandy area which is unsuitable for hosting large numbers of displaced people. It is not an ideal solution for housing the over 1.2 million people crammed into Rafah, many of them starving, injured or sick including women and children. 

The healthcare system in Gaza is also shutting down with only a third of Gaza’s hospitals partially functioning. The aid system has now moved into a new stage of fading, almost at the point of debilitation. Since last Sunday no aid has come into Gaza by land.  

Israel has sealed the Rafah border crossing which is a key entry point for delivery of humanitarian supplies and aid agencies are almost out of food and fuel in Gaza.

The Rafah invasion is amplifying the ongoing Israeli siege and the suffering 

An Islamic Relief staff member in Gaza says:  

“I feel like this is the end. It feels like we will all be either trapped and killed in Gaza, or we will all be forced out. People have stayed in Rafah thinking it’s safe and hoping that global pressure would stop an invasion. But now we are abandoned by the world and everyone feels betrayed and let down.  

“It’s an unimaginable scene, with tens of thousands of people looking for shelter. People are pale and thin, tired and afraid. There are children, women, elderly people and people with disabilities trying to flee in wheelchairs. Injured people have to leave the hospital with recent bandages and bloodstains. 

“In other parts of Gaza, the few bits of remaining land are now filling up with tents and shacks built of bits of wood and nylon.   

“No humanitarian assistance has entered since Israel took over the Rafah crossing and the Kerem Abu Salem crossing closed. Bakeries have stopped working because they don’t have fuel, so we don’t have bread. We don’t have any water supply as that also depends on fuel deliveries, so yesterday we had to pay $50 just to refill our tank. Cars have stopped, so people coming from Rafah to the Middle Area are either walking or packed into vans carrying hundreds of people.    

“Many people in Gaza are already suffering from famine, but now we are entering a new period of unprecedented hardship.”   

Islamic Relief strongly condemns Israel’s order for civilians to evacuate yet again and calls on world leaders who have repeatedly warned against an invasion of Rafah to urgently pressure Israel to stop its attack and ensure humanitarian aid can enter Gaza. 

We demand the Israeli government reopens the Rafah border crossing reestablishing this vital lifeline to people in Gaza. We call for an end to the invasion of Rafah. An immediate ceasefire to prevent more deaths across the enclave. 

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