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Oxfam: Israeli invasion of Rafah would be ‘catastrophic’

May 7, 2024 at 1:40 pm

Palestinians walk around the rubble of buildings destroyed after an Israeli attack on As Salam Neighborhood in Rafah, Gaza on May 06, 2024 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

UK-based charity Oxfam yesterday expressed deep concern over Israel’s evacuation order for the southern Gaza city of Rafah, warning that a military offensive in the city would be “catastrophic” as there is “no safe place to go”, Anadolu reported.

In a statement, Sally Abi-Khalil, Oxfam’s Middle East and North Africa regional director, said Israel’s evacuation order appears to be an “impending invasion of Rafah,” despite calls from world leaders urging Tel Aviv to “stop its continued, barbaric, onslaught.”

“For over six months, Israel has deliberately and systematically targeted civilians and aid workers, including in clearly marked ‘safe zones’ and ‘evacuation routes.’ Any claims it now makes that civilians can be safely evacuated, have lost credibility,” she said.

Even the Al-Mawasi area, where people have been told to flee to, has already been targeted twice, she added.

“It’s unfathomable that one government is allowed to ignore all warnings of the catastrophic humanitarian cost with full impunity, and to callously press forward in chilling disregard for human life, international law, and the ICJ ruling to prevent genocide.”

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January said it is “plausible” that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and ordered Tel Aviv to stop such acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians.

READ: Israel targets aid storage facilities in Gaza’s Rafah

In spite of this, and in the face of warning by the US and all international aid agencies that a ground assault of Rafah would lead to a “massacre”, Israel yesterday ordered some 100,000 Palestinian civilians to leave the east of the city before it begins its invasion. Some of the families have already been displaced numerous times from across the Strip.

“This ground invasion must not be allowed to happen,” Abi-Khalil said, calling on countries who have given financial and military support to Israel to act before “more atrocities take place”.

Earlier, the charity reiterated its concerns over a possible Israeli military offensive in Rafah.

“A military invasion in Rafah would be CATASTROPHIC. Almost 1.3 million people, including at least half a million children, are now crammed into this small city in Gaza,” Oxfam wrote on X.

“The UK needs to #StopSellingArms to Israel NOW. The UK Government will be COMPLICIT as long as it continues to sell arms to Israel whilst they could be used to commit war crimes,” the group wrote on X.

In a statement, the NGO Save the Children also voiced concern over the evacuation order and planned military offensive, saying time has run out to protect children in Rafah.

“For weeks we have been warning there is no feasible evacuation plan to lawfully displace and protect civilians,” said Inger Ashing, the group’s CEO.

Reiterating their previous calls to avert the planned offensive, she said the international community has “looked away,” instead of taking action: “They cannot look away now.”

“Forcibly displacing people from Rafah while further disrupting the aid response will likely seal the fate of many children,” said Ashing.

She underlined that Israel must abide by the prohibition of forcible transfer and deportation of civilians under international humanitarian law and provide civilians with essential necessities for survival.

“Now more than ever we need an immediate, definitive ceasefire, implemented by warring parties,” added Ashing.

Rafah is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, many of whom have taken refuge in the area after being displaced from other areas of the Strip.

UNICEF: 600,000 children in Rafah at risk of a ‘new imminent disaster’