Mercy Corps Statement on ICJ Orders to Halt Offensive on Rafah, Urgent Action Needed to Protect Lives in Gaza

May 24, 2024

This morning, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah. 

Statement by Mercy Corps Vice President of Global Policy and Advocacy, Kate Phillips-Barrasso:

“Today’s ruling by the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to halt its offensive on Rafah adds much needed international pressure to protect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians sheltering in Rafah and fleeing to unlivable areas.

“The Rafah incursion has brought the devastating humanitarian fallout we predicted and feared. Regardless of its incremental nature, it has caused nearly 900,000 people — who are weak and have no remaining coping strategies — to flee to areas of middle Gaza where there is no infrastructure, severe crowding, unexploded ordnance, and almost no access to aid.

“What’s worse is that this military action has caused the closure of Rafah and the functional closure of Kerem Shalom crossings, the two lifelines of the humanitarian response. This, combined with the inability to reach warehouses and the limited fuel to move what few goods remain in Gaza, has brought the humanitarian system to its knees. We are in a worse position to respond than we have been for most of this crisis.

“This week, our colleagues in the Al-Mawasi region, which is supposed to be a ‘humanitarian zone,’ have described their daily life conditions as ‘harrowing.’ Ninety-five percent of the displaced people live in tents, exposed to all forms of suffering in every aspect of daily life. They have no electricity, no water, and no sanitation facilities, all while exposed to extreme heat, insects, and the elements. The overcrowding is so severe that the worn-out nylon tents lining the roads reach the beach, where the waves flood them at night with the tides.

“If dramatic changes do not occur, including opening all border crossings to safely surge aid into these areas, we fear that a wave of secondary mortality will result, with people succumbing to the combination of hunger, lack of clean water and sanitation, and the spread of disease in areas where there is little medical care.”