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Gaza: Rafah evacuation order must be rescinded

‘Palestinian civilians in Gaza are human beings, not pawns to be moved around a chessboard’ - Erika Guevara-Rosas

Responding to the Israeli military’s orders for more than 100,000 residents - most of whom are internally-displaced people - to “evacuate” whole districts in eastern Rafah amid news its military operations in the area are already underway, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Director of Research, Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns, said:

“The Israeli military must rescind their order to civilians to ‘evacuate’ eastern Rafah unless they can guarantee the population’s safety, which is highly unlikely under the intense military attacks that Israel has been relentlessly conducting for seven months across the entire Gaza Strip.

“Palestinian civilians in Gaza are human beings, not pawns to be moved around a chessboard at the whim of the Israeli authorities. 

“The notion that displaced civilians are safe anywhere in Gaza has proved a fallacy time and again as the Israeli military has attacked areas it had previously designated as safe.

“As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for ensuring the safety of the Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, who are protected persons under international humanitarian law, including by providing services and supplies necessary for their survival. 

“In the absence of any guarantees for residents’ safety and safe return to their homes, including to areas north of Wadi Gaza, as prescribed by international humanitarian law, the repeated evacuation orders are unlawful under international law and may amount to forcible transfer. 

“Only an immediate and sustained ceasefire by all parties can put an end to mass civilian suffering and restore some faith in the universal value of international law.”

No basic standards for safe and dignified living

The extended ‘safe areas’, proposed for relocation of civilians in the military’s leaflets, lack the most basic standards for safe and dignified living. Some of the areas in Khan Younis to which residents are ordered to go have already been subjected to massive destruction due to Israeli bombardment and have been rendered uninhabitable. Most of the residents ordered - yet again - to “evacuate” have already been displaced on multiple occasions since October. 

On 13 October, the Israeli military issued the first mass “evacuation” order to civilians in Gaza, instructing 1.1 million people north of Wadi Gaza to relocate southwards within 24 hours. Since then, nearly 90% of Gaza’s entire population has been displaced at least once. A new wave of mass displacement in Rafah, amidst relentless bombardment, will only exacerbate the man-made humanitarian catastrophe. The latest “evacuation” order to residents of eastern Rafah was issued a day after a mortar attack claimed by Hamas killed four Israeli soldiers near the Kerem Shalom crossing. 

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