Gaza: Rafah invasion must not be allowed to happen

Children in Rafah, Gaza, living in damaged shelters, under siege from Israeli forces

The Israeli invasion of Rafah must not be allowed to happen, Islamic Relief warns again as fears mount over an imminent ground invasion.

More than 1.2 million Palestinians are sheltering in Rafah in apocalyptic conditions. Civilians there are terrified about the coming days as more deadly bombings hit Rafah overnight and Israeli forces are reportedly amassing nearby.  

An invasion of Rafah would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

The invasion would inevitably kill thousands more civilians and uproot hundreds of thousands of people yet again. It would make widespread famine inevitable. It would massively disrupt the humanitarian response across Gaza, which is primarily based in Rafah, at a time when lifesaving aid is needed more than ever. 

World leaders must do everything they can to halt the escalation in Rafah. They must increase efforts to ensure an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access.   

Since October, Rafah has become one of the most overcrowded places in the world.

About half of Gaza’s entire population is now crammed into the tiny area along the border with Egypt. Islamic Relief staff and partners in Rafah are distributing aid such as cooked meals and water. However, many people are still starving and desperately need food, healthcare and other aid.   

Many people fled to Rafah on Israeli orders to leave other parts of Gaza. Yet, now, they are being ordered to move again. Civilians must be protected regardless of whether they stay or move. Ordering people to leave does not absolve Israel of its obligations under international humanitarian law to refrain from harming civilians who cannot, or choose not to, leave.    

The humanitarian crisis in Rafah is worsening by the day.

Multiple families share a single tent, while others sleep under scraps of cloth or plastic, surrounded by sewage water. Last week extreme heat killed at least two young children in the tents as temperatures rose above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).  

Islamic Relief staff in Gaza described conditions in the tents during such heat as “like living in an inferno”. Similar temperatures are likely in the coming weeks. With the heat and lack of clean water and sanitation, the spread of diseases is expected to increase even further.

Gaza is now just weeks away from widespread famine, yet Israel’s blockade continues.

Within the Gaza Strip, the ongoing blockage restricts aid despite repeated commitments to allow for more aid. Last week, an average of just over 200 trucks a day were able to enter Gaza. This is far less than the 500 a day that entered Gaza before October and it barely scratches the surface of what is needed now. Israel continues to obstruct humanitarian access to northern Gaza, with the UN reporting that more than one-third of aid missions to the north were blocked during April.

The US military has announced that construction of a temporary pier to deliver aid by sea should be finished soon. But even if it gets fully operational, its capacity will be just a fraction of what is needed. Only an immediate ceasefire and full unimpeded humanitarian access by land can ensure that aid reaches people in sufficient quantity.  

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