Goto main content

Rafah, Gaza: Urgent statement from Chief Executives of humanitarian agencies and human rights organizations

Emergency
Occupied Palestinian Territories

© S. Hejji - HQ

17 February 2023

 

We are appalled by the harrowing developments in Rafah, Gaza’s most populated area where 1.5 million people are sheltering as their last resort - over half a million of them children. If Israel launches its proposed ground offensive, thousands more civilians will be killed and the current trickle of humanitarian aid risks coming to a complete halt. If this military plan is not stopped immediately, the consequences will be catastrophic.

 

With significant damage to over 70 per cent of civilian infrastructure, many areas in Gaza have been reduced to rubble and are uninhabitable. Most hospitals are non-functional or only partially operational and are completely overwhelmed. There is little food, clean water, shelter, or sanitation. People are living in the most inhumane conditions, many of them out in the open. It defies belief that the Israeli military has forcibly displaced the majority of the population from their homes into Rafah - with six times as many people than before now squeezed into the area - and then announced plans to attack it.

 

The Israeli government's strategy of systematic and repeated forcible transfer of the civilian population has led to the forced displacement of more than three quarters of the population, many of whom left without adequate shelter or homes to return to.  Collectively punishing civilians by denying them adequate shelter, food, clean water and other essentials needed for their survival and obstructing humanitarian relief consignments destined to alleviate starvation may amount to grave breaches of the obligations of an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law, constituting war crimes.

 

Last month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, mandated Israel to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in Gaza. Not only has this not happened, the situation on the ground has deteriorated further. Israel’s airstrikes in Rafah killed at least 100 Palestinians in a single day, defying both international calls for moderation and potentially the ICJ order. Over 1.5 million people trapped in Rafah have nowhere safe to go, and many have already been displaced multiple times. All of the Israeli supposed-safe spaces have been compromised, without exception, further proof that there was never truly anywhere safe in Gaza.

 

Our call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire is more urgent than ever as Israel’s relentless bombardment and siege have decimated Gaza and left the Palestinian civilian population starving, facing famine, and with diseases rife while obstructing attempts to alleviate their suffering. The Israeli military offensive has made it virtually impossible for our collective agencies to meaningfully and effectively deliver humanitarian work, compromising not only safety but also the very principles guiding our humanitarian efforts. Rafah has been the primary entry point for aid and bombardment will then prevent any assistance from getting through.

 

The silence, and at times material support of Israel’s military by powerful nations, signals distressing complicity in Gaza’s deepening crisis. Whether through the transfer of weapons, diplomatic obstruction of resolutions, or silence, such actions have effectively granted Israel impunity. The harrowing situation in Gaza underscores the urgent need for governments worldwide to stop the supply of arms and ammunition used in these atrocities. We also call for a permanent ceasefire to protect civilian lives and release of hostages and unlawfully detained Palestinians, and full, unhindered access for humanitarian aid and workers.

 

States bear legal and moral responsibilities to protect civilians, prevent war crimes and uphold international law. We urge all States to consider that their inaction or continued support not only deepens the tragedy but also implicates them. We call upon them to do everything in their power to prevent further military offensives and forge a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza.

 

Signatories:

 

Ana Alcalde                 Acting Secretary General, ActionAid International

Dr Agnès Callamard   Secretary General, Amnesty International

Charlotte Slente          Secretary General, Danish Refugee Council

Manuel Patrouillard     CEO, Handicap International-Humanity & Inclusion 

Amitabh Behar            Executive Director, Oxfam International

Rob Williams               CEO, ActionAid International

Faris Arouri                  Director, Association for International Development Agencies

 

Where your
support
helps

PRESS CONTACT

CANADA

Fatou Thiam

 

Help them
concretely

To go further

Noor, walking her way back to life!
© A. Rahhal / HI
Emergency Rehabilitation

Noor, walking her way back to life!

Noor, aged 3, is a survivor of the earthquake that struck Turkey and north-west Syria in February 2023. Humanity & Inclusion is accompanying this vivacious and resilient little girl on the way to her refound life.

“We need double the amount of supplies”
HI
Emergency Health Rehabilitation

“We need double the amount of supplies”

Wala provides nursing care to people in their homes and in the shelters. She talks to us about her life, her work and the situation in Gaza.

7 things you should know about the conflict in Sudan
© M. Degue Mohassingar / HI
Emergency Prevention

7 things you should know about the conflict in Sudan

On 15 April 2023, an armed conflict broke out in Sudan. From May 2023, Humanity & Inclusion mobilised in Eastern Chad to support and care for Sudanese refugees fleeing the violence.