And Now Rafah

May 6, 2024. The Israeli war planes dropped leaflets ordering hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in eastern Rafah–the vast majority of whom are internally displaced persons, many already forced to relocate several times–to evacuate the area. Less than 15 hours later, without time for families to evacuate the area, Israel began its aerial bombardment of Rafah. Alarmingly, this latest evacuation order includes areas of Karem Abu Salem and Rafah crossings, the latter being the lifeline for more than two million Palestinians, as well as Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital, the main medical facility in the entire Rafah Governorate.

The population of the Rafah Governorate has increased almost six-fold from 275,000 residents to over 1.5 million in the past seven months. Now housing roughly three-quarters of Gaza’s population, parts of Rafah (Al-Shaboura, Tal Al-Sultan, and the Al-Zohour neighbour-hoods) are considered the last alleged “safe zones” in Gaza. However, Israel has repeatedly bombed Rafah since issuing previous evacuation orders demanding Palestinians to flee there.

Reports are emerging that the Israeli Occupying Forces have purchased thousands of tents to accommodate persons who will be displaced as a result of the ground invasion of Rafah.

People have nowhere to go, as nowhere is safe in the entirety of the Gaza Strip.

An invasion of Rafah would be unlike anything people have witnessed so far. Israel, in plans reminiscent of Srebrenica, will continue with its practice of separating men from women and children while walking through the so-called ‘safe routes’, and by reports of Israel’s intentions to prevent Palestinian men from leaving Rafah.

Israeli ground invasion into Rafah would precipitate the utter collapse of the already precarious humanitarian aid infrastructure. This vital lifeline, systematically obstructed by Israel, operates primarily through the border crossings situated in the southeastern areas of Rafah.

This perilous situation heightens the risk of a man-made famine in southern Gaza, echoing the “full-blown famine” that ravaged northern Gaza, as per the assessment of the World Food Programme.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has twice stated the need to prevent genocide, an obligation of all signatory States to the Genocide Convention which is persistently violated by States that continue to arm and financially support Israel’s settler-colonial, apartheid, and genocidal regime. States must immediately halt all military support for Israel and make clear that attacks on Rafah must be met with a unified, tangible response. This should include a two-way arms embargo, economic sanctions, including freezing the assets of all Israeli government and army officials, as well as travel bans and divestment from all Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

The international community as a whole must actively and meaningfully work towards ending Israel’s illegal occupation and dismantling the settler-colonial apartheid regime against the Palestinian people. The process of emptying Gaza and destroying Palestinian life and culture therein is a manifestation of the ongoing Nakba. Just as the international community stood by then, it stands by now. Echoes of condemnation from world leaders have the same effect as silence. What is needed is action.

[Contributd by Shawaen Jabarin, Issam Younis and Raji Sourani]

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Vol 56, No. 48, May 26 - Jun 1, 2024