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Urgent Call: Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Demand Concrete Action to Halt Impending Massacre Amid Rafah Ground Invasion

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7 May 2024

8 May 2024 – The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan, and Al-Haq, vehemently denounce the initiation of the ground invasion by the Israeli military into eastern Rafah. This egregious act stands as a stark testament to the failure of the international community to stop the ongoing genocide in Gaza, as per their legal obligations, and compel Israel to adhere to the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Despite clear legal obligations, Israel’s actions exemplify a blatant disregard for international law and human rights, and underscore the urgent need for decisive, global intervention to prevent further massacres.

On 6 May 2024, the Israeli military issued new evacuation orders directed towards eastern Rafah, specifically targeting residents and displaced persons in the Al-Shawka municipality, in the Al-Salam, Al Jneina, Tabet Ziraa, and Al-Bayouk neighborhoods, and blocks 10-16, 28, and 270, who were instructed to “evacuate immediately” and relocate to the so-called “expanded humanitarian zone” in Al-Mawasi. This directive comes amidst recent announcements by Israeli authorities regarding the expansion of the humanitarian zone in Al-Mawasi, encompassing vast neighborhoods stretching from Khan Younis to Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah. However, our organizations vehemently reject the notion that any area of Gaza can be deemed ‘safe’. The reality on the ground is indisputable: nowhere is safe in Gaza. 

According to preliminary estimates, the areas impacted by this evacuation order house more than 250,000 individuals — a significant portion of Rafah’s population of over a million residents and displaced persons. In the area designated for evacuation, both the Karem Abu Salem and Rafah Crossings are located, serving as vital lifelines for the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza. The Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital, Rafah’s primary healthcare facility, is also situated within this designated evacuation zone. Additionally, this area accommodates various schools that are being used as shelters. Furthermore, tens of thousands of families currently reside in makeshift tents after being forcibly displaced from their homes. 

Notably, in the hours leading up to the issuance of the new evacuation order — specifically, from the evening of Sunday, 5 May 2024, until dawn of Monday, 6 May 2024 — our field documentation has revealed a disturbing escalation of Israeli attacks in Rafah. According to our reports, Israeli warplanes conducted direct airstrikes on 10 residential homes, seven of which had residents still inside at the time of the attacks. Additionally, agricultural lands across various parts of Rafah were targeted. As a result, 28 Palestinians, including 11 children and eight women, were killed. Many others sustained injuries or remain trapped beneath the rubble, as of time of writing.

Within 15 hours from the issuance of the evacuation order, without time for families to evacuate the area, the Israeli war cabinet unanimously decided to proceed with the ground invasion of eastern Rafah. These developments unfold against a backdrop of intensified airstrikes and artillery bombardments by Israeli forces, targeting residential homes, streets, agricultural lands, and farms. Since the early hours of Tuesday, 7 May, Israeli attacks have killed at least 23 Palestinians, including six women and six children, as well as causing numerous injuries and leaving several individuals missing under the rubble of at least two houses. Regrettably, the airstrikes persist, and the toll of casualties and fatalities continues to rise as we issue this statement. 

According to our monitoring, in the early hours of 7 May, Israeli forces advanced with their tanks and raided and seized control of the Palestinian side of Rafah crossing. They raised the Israeli flag inside the crossing; this alarming development serves as further evidence of Israel’s intentions to eliminate Palestinian presence in Gaza and to assert control over the land.

As a result, Rafah crossing was closed for the movement of people and goods both in and out of Gaza — including desperately needed, life-saving humanitarian aid. This closure places the lives of hundreds of injured and medical patients at immediate risk, effectively condemning them to death due to the lack of access to medical care. Additionally, the closure would prevent the movement of the few delegations allowed to enter Gaza, including medical and humanitarian missions, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and denying essential assistance to those in dire need.

Amid the intensified attacks, forced displacement persists, instilling a state of terror and panic among residents and displaced persons. This alarming situation underscores the stark reality faced by Palestinians in Gaza, who have nowhere else left to go. As a direct consequence of the ground invasion and eviction orders, the Ministry of Health was compelled to evacuate the Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital. At the time of writing, only the Kuwait Hospital and three field hospitals, established during the ongoing genocide, remain operational, further exacerbating the strain on the local healthcare infrastructure.

Over the past seven months, Israel has demonstrated a blatant disregard for international legal norms and the United Nations (UN), repeatedly violating resolutions issued by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and the UN Human Rights Council, as well as provisional measures ordered by the ICJ. The persistent impunity granted to Israel only perpetuates further atrocity crimes, as testified by the beginning of the Rafah ground invasion. 

Mere statements alone are insufficient to halt the invasion of Rafah or address Israel’s genocidal military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza. What is urgently required are tangible, decisive actions. Our organizations urgently implore the international community to take immediate and decisive action, utilizing all available means, to prevent further atrocities, including applying and imposing economic sanctions, arms embargo, and other countermeasures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law.

Lastly, we once again urge the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to immediately issue arrest warrants for every member of the Israeli war cabinet, who are deemed responsible for orchestrating the ongoing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The unanimous decision by the Israeli war cabinet to initiate a ground invasion of Rafah underscores the urgency of holding these individuals accountable.