Catastrophe Imminent for 1.5 Million Gazans as Rafah Evacuation Orders Begin

May 06, 2024

This morning the Israeli military issued an evacuation notice for parts of eastern Rafah, an area that hosts approximately 100,000 civilians, ordering them to relocate to “humanitarian zones” in Al-Mawasi and Khan Younis, where they will find no guarantee of safety and no aid. 

Statement by Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Corps:

“People in Rafah are now faced with an impossible choice. They can stay and face almost-certain bombardment or attempt a perilous journey to an unlivable area with virtually no remaining infrastructure or access to life-saving aid. Those who can’t flee Rafah — the injured, the elderly, people with disabilities, and unaccompanied children — risk being caught in the crossfire. There is little clarity on how a supposed “humanitarian zone” will work in practice, and history has shown that these areas have proven anything but safe.

“We’ve already seen the catastrophic and fast-deteriorating hunger conditions in northern Gaza after aid was largely cut off — now a military offensive in Rafah could plunge the remainder of the population into famine. Even before today’s evacuation orders, Al-Mawasi was uninhabitable. Our team members report tents stretched endlessly under scorching sun with no relief in sight and no electricity, water, or aid. During a recent heatwave, a five-year-old girl tragically died in her tent due to extreme heat. One colleague shared, ‘Al Mawasi is currently full of insect-borne diseases, with people living crowded in tents and outdoors. The conditions there are beyond tragic and defy description.’ 

“Rafah is currently the central hub of all humanitarian operations and a lifeline for aid to enter Gaza.  An offensive will cause the humanitarian response — already impeded by extremely limited access, onerous border checks, and the destruction of vital infrastructure from roads to warehouses — to collapse.  In addition, any potential closure of Rafah would have catastrophic consequences. while aid warehouses, distribution sites, transportation routes, and supply lines will likely come directly under fire. 

“After nearly seven months of widespread and systematic bombardment, over 34,000 Palestinians killed – including nearly 14,000 children – and now an imminent man-made famine, the world is becoming numb to the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. Yet the worst human toll could still be ahead of us. The UN Security Council has demanded a ceasefire. The International Court of Justice has demanded unhindered provision of aid. What more will it take to stop the fighting, allow the unimpeded delivery of aid, and save the remaining civilians in Gaza?”