Published 02/12/2024 11:13
Since the resumption of Israeli aggression and bombing of the Gaza Strip 73 days ago, the Palestinian population has faced unprecedented humanitarian devastation. However, there were always false promises of a truce for civilians moving south. Now, the small city of Rafah, the last refuge for the displaced, has received one and a half million Gazans. These people compete for scarce resources, go hungry and get sick, while Israel announces that it will bomb the city, expanding the ethnic cleansing of the territory.
According to UNRWA, a shipment of food for 1.1 million people is stuck at an Israeli port due to recent restrictions by Israeli authorities. 1,049 containers of rice, flour, chickpeas, sugar and cooking oil are trapped as Gaza families face hunger and starvation.
This Sunday, the so-called “Constitutional and Judicial Committee” of the Israeli Knesset approved a bill to halt the work of UNRWA in occupied Jerusalem. Palestinians who live under strict military control in the city fear their vulnerability and lack of protection if the UN agency is expelled. In the West Bank, which has nothing to do with Hamas, Palestinians are also being gradually rounded up and expelled from their homes, with reports of constant deaths. Occupation forces today attacked the villages of Rujib and Deir al-Hatab, east of Nablus. Beyond Sa’ir and Shuyoukh, northeast of Hebron.
The city of Rafah is plunged into an atmosphere of anxiety and panic. With tensions between Israel and Palestine reaching alarming levels, the people of Rafah face terrible uncertainty about their immediate future.
“We have no idea where to go,” laments one local resident, reflecting the sentiment shared by many in the community. The statement by Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UNRWA, resonates with the lived reality of those in Rafah: “Any large-scale military operation among this population can only lead to an additional layer of never-ending tragedy that is unfolding in Gaza.”
The situation is worsened by alarming reports of people being shot at close range while trying to move south, as if they were trapped in a hunt, under the gaze of soldiers who apparently enjoy recording the targets. The numbers are frightening: 42 dead as a result of squatter attacks on homes and vehicles in the city of Rafah.
Egypt expressed its total rejection of the statements issued by the Israeli government regarding the intention to launch a military operation in Rafah. In a statement issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the harmful consequences of such a measure were highlighted, warning of the risk of worsening the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.
The international community is also speaking out about the situation. Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense of Ireland, strongly condemned the expansion of military operations in Rafah and the orders to evacuate the civilian population, highlighting the serious violations of international humanitarian law that such action would entail.
The German Foreign Ministry echoed these concerns, describing the suffering in Rafah as “inconceivable” and warning of the risks of a full-scale offensive by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Josep Borrell Fontelles, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, highlighted the urgent need to resume negotiations to release hostages and suspend hostilities as the only way to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah and avoid serious tensions with Egypt.
ActionAid International says the intensified attacks in Rafah would have disastrous consequences as people would resort to eating grass in desperate conditions in overcrowded shelters. Food is becoming so scarce that people are turning to herbs in a last-ditch attempt to stave off hunger. Meanwhile, infections and illnesses proliferate amid overcrowded conditions.
As the world watches with apprehension, the residents of Rafah wait in fear as events unfold, fearing what the future may hold for them and their families amid an increasingly uncertain and dangerous scenario.
The international civil community has also raised its voice in protest, with demonstrations in New York and calls for action from world leaders. Hundreds of activists and people in solidarity with the Palestinian people protested at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan, New York, demanding a stance against the genocide in the Gaza Strip and the apartheid policy practiced by Israel against the Palestinian people. Mark Ruffalo, along with other celebrities, wore pins representing “Peace Lilies and Artists to End Fire” at the Directors Guild of America Awards.
As the death toll continues to rise, with more than 28,491 people killed and 72,450 injured in Gaza and the West Bank since October 7, the international community is watching the escalation of violence with concern.
The numbers are frightening: more than 12,250 children, 7,750 women and 695 elderly people lost their lives in these indiscriminate attacks. Furthermore, an estimated 8,000 people are missing, including 4,000 children, while 1.93 million people have been displaced, with 15% of them suffering from disabilities.
On the 73rd day after the “humanitarian truce” of just one week, the Israeli army carried out 14 massacres in the last 24 hours, leaving 112 dead and 173 injured. The lack of access to essential medical services has further worsened the crisis, with reports that three patients died at Al-Amal Hospital due to a lack of oxygen caused by Israel’s obstruction.
The resistance of the Palestinian people remains strong in the face of the brutality of the occupation. The President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, has sought international support and is in Qatar to meet with the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, in an effort to stop the ongoing genocide.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the occupation continues to perpetrate human rights violations, with killings, arbitrary detentions and attacks against innocent civilians. The international community must intensify its efforts to end this injustice and ensure the protection of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.