Nearly half of Rafah’s population are once again displaced

Approximately 800,000 people have been compelled to evacuate Rafah since Israel initiated a military operation in the region on 6 May.

Approximately 800,000 people have been compelled to evacuate Rafah since Israel initiated a military operation in the region on 6 May, as stated by the head of the UN Palestine refugee agency UNRWA. In a renewed plea for enhanced protection of civilians in Gaza, secure humanitarian access, and ultimately a ceasefire, Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini conveyed that nearly half of Rafah’s population or 800,000 people are once again displaced. Following evacuation directives to seek refuge in designated safe zones, individuals primarily sought shelter in the central regions of Gaza and Khan Younis, even amidst the ruins of destroyed structures.

“When people move, they are exposed, without safe passage or protection,” he said.  “Every time, they have to start from scratch, all over again.”

Mr. Lazzarini said the areas that people have escaped to do not have safe water supplies or sanitation facilities.

He cited the example of Al-Mawassi, describing it as “a sandy 14 square kilometre agricultural land, where people are left out in the open with little to no buildings or roads.”

The town, located on Gaza’s southern coast, “lacks the minimal conditions to provide emergency humanitarian assistance in a safe and dignified manner.”

He said that more than 400,000 lived in Al-Mawassi before the recent escalation, but now it is “crammed and cannot absorb more people”, which is also the same in Deir al Balah.   

‘No place is safe’

“The claim that people in Gaza can move to ‘safe’ or ‘humanitarian’ zones is false. Each time, it puts the lives of civilians at serious risk,” Mr. Lazzarini stated.

“Gaza does not have any safe zones,” he added. “No place is safe.  No one is safe.” 

The situation is again being made far worse by the lack of aid and basic humanitarian supplies, he continued, noting that humanitarians do not have any more supplies to give out, including food and other basic items. 

Meanwhile, key crossings into Gaza remain closed or are unsafe to access as they are located near or in combat zones. Mr. Lazzarini also highlighted the critical need for fuel, which is essential for aid distribution.

Land routes crucial

He said only 33 aid trucks have made it to southern Gaza since 6 May – “a small trickle amid the growing humanitarian needs and mass displacement.”

“While we welcome reports on first shipments arriving at the new floating dock, land routes remain the most viable, effective, efficient and safest aid delivery method,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, the UN Spokesperson’s Office said the World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed that 10 truckloads of food were transported to its warehouse the previous day via the floating dock, which was installed by the United States military.

“Some of the shipment included high-energy biscuits for WFP to distribute, but there were also commodities for other humanitarian partners to distribute, which included rice, pasta, and lentils,” the note said.

Mr. Lazzarini emphasized that the land crossings into Gaza must re-open and be safe to access. ”Without the re-opening of these routes, the deprivation of assistance and catastrophic humanitarian conditions will persist,” he said.

Ceasefire now

He underlined the obligations of the parties to the conflict, starting with rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for all civilians in need, wherever they are located.  

“The displaced population must have access to basic survival items, including food, water, and shelter, as well as hygiene, health, assistance and above all safety,” he said.

Humanitarian relief teams also need safe and free movement to access people in need, and protection wherever they may be, and the parties are also obligated to protect civilians and civilian objects everywhere.   

“Above all, it is time to agree on a ceasefire,” he concluded.  

“Any further escalation in the fighting will only wreak more havoc on civilians and make it impossible to finally have the peace and stability that Israelis and Palestinians desperately need and deserve.”

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