Rafah Operation Could Usher in Deadliest Stage of Conflict Yet for Palestinian Civilians

Statement from Refugees International President Jeremy Konyndyk: 

“A military offensive in Rafah would produce a human catastrophe. There is simply no way to conduct such an operation without gravely endangering the more than 1 million Palestinian civilians—including more than 600,000 children—who are sheltering there in makeshift camps. Many of them fled to Rafah after forcible transfer from other parts of Gaza, and there is no credibly safe way to evacuate this population elsewhere. Rafah is also the principal remaining hub for humanitarian operations in Gaza, and the nascent famine relief operations would collapse if an offensive goes ahead. An offensive under such circumstances could not be conducted in line with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law, and would thus produce extensive and serious war crimes.

Refugees International calls on the Israeli government to halt plans for an offensive, and to rescind its call today compelling the transfer of already-displaced civilians from southern Gaza into the Al-Mawasi zone. 

President Biden previously expressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu that a major operation in Rafah would be a mistake; he must now back up these words with action. We call on the Biden administration to lay a forceful red line in opposition to a Rafah offensive, along with clearly articulated consequences for the Israeli government. These consequences must include halting the transfer of any offensive weapons and ammunition to Israel, in line with U.S. law and the NSM-20 policy requirements. Congressional leaders have also argued that such an operation should trigger restrictions on U.S. security assistance to Israel.   

The only way forward is an enduring cease-fire. An offensive in Rafah will kill thousands of civilians who are now cornered – and it would do so with U.S.-supplied weapons. It is time to end this war and prioritize fighting Gaza’s famine. The United States must use all of its diplomatic leverage to ensure that outcome. A failure to deploy full U.S. leverage toward that objective – up to and including imposing restrictions on U.S. security assistance – will make the Biden administration complicit in the devastation that follows.”

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Etant Dupain at edupain@refugeesinternational.org.