Rafah evacuation order will cost lives, Islamic Relief warns

displacement camps in Rafah, where a majority of Palestinians in Gaza reside

Islamic Relief is appalled at the news that Israel has told over 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate Rafah. This will put many lives at even greater risk. People must not be forced to move yet again. 

People sheltering in eastern parts of Rafah on May 6, 2024, received messages saying the Israel military “is about to operate with great force” in the area. The order told civilians to evacuate to the so-called humanitarian zone of Al Mawasi “for your own safety”. Heavy bombing in Rafah overnight has reportedly killed many civilians, including several children.  

As we have seen over the past seven months, forcing so many people to move is impossible without serious humanitarian cost. People will inevitably die as a result of the evacuation. The sick and wounded, elderly people, newborn infants and people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. They often cannot evacuate without support. 

The area where people have been ordered to move – al Mawasi – has been designated a so-called ‘safe humanitarian zone’. But it is not safe. Civilians sheltering there say they continue to face attacks and severe shortages of food, water and other vital aid. Forcing more people there will make the humanitarian crisis even worse.  

Islamic Relief reiterates that civilians must be protected regardless of whether they stay or leave Rafah. 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.      

For many weeks, Islamic Relief and other humanitarian agencies have been warning that an invasion of Rafah must not be allowed to go ahead. It will have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. More than 1.2 million people are now sheltering in dire conditions in Rafah. Many of them have been forced to move several times over the past seven months.  

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