The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has warned of the consequences of any military operation or attack on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, stating that there is no other place for people to go.
UNRWA spokesperson Tamara Al-Rifai said in a press statement on Sunday that any military operation in Rafah would lead to the same consequences we have witnessed before, meaning the killing and displacement of more people. She further explained that people are not allowed to return to their homes in the northern Gaza Strip, and most of the residential units in the north have been destroyed.
Al-Rifai pointed out that there are many unexploded ordnances and explosives left by the war in the northern area, and it is not logical to consider the return of anyone to areas where there are still many explosive devices that may detonate. The danger now looms over the possibility of intense fighting in Rafah, where people are currently crowded.
The Israeli occupation army continues to shell and target the city of Rafah in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt, where more than 1.3 million displaced people are crowded, five times the number of its original population, amid desperate humanitarian and living conditions, according to the United Nations.
UNRWA also stated on Saturday that the potential Israeli military attack on Rafah, amid the presence of these vulnerable inhabitants, would be a complete catastrophe.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a press statement that many residents of Rafah and the displaced people who have come there, totalling 1.4 million people, are living in temporary shelters in plastic tents on the streets. He added that the potential Israeli military attack on Rafah amid these completely exposed vulnerable people would be a catastrophic event.
Lazzarini concluded his statement by saying, “I no longer find words to describe the situation in Gaza.”
Earlier on Saturday, the official Israeli broadcasting authority claimed that the military operation in Rafah would begin after the completion of a wide-scale evacuation of civilians from the city and its suburbs. In response, the Gaza Government Media Office warned of an unprecedented catastrophe and massacre if Israel invaded the Rafah governorate.
Rafah is the last refuge for displaced people in the devastated Gaza Strip and has been subjected to several Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling during the night, with paramedics reporting several injuries and casualties among the displaced.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that more than half of Gaza’s population, totaling 2.3 million people, are currently crowded in the city of Rafah and its surrounding areas.
Since the beginning of the ground operation launched by the Israeli forces on the Gaza Strip on October 27th last year, Israel has instructed civilian residents to move from the north and center of the Strip to the south, claiming that it is safe zones, but they have not been spared from the shelling of homes, cars, and hospitals.
As a result of the atrocities committed in the Strip, Israel faces accusations of genocide before the International Court of Justice for the first time in its history, which has been met with regional and international support to put an end to Israel’s impunity, while facing opposition from the United States.