“Following the collapse of the pause in fighting in Gaza, Refugees International is deeply concerned about the enormous civilian harm from a renewed offensive, especially in Gaza’s south where hundreds of thousands of Gazan civilians have fled seeking safety. With large swaths of northern Gaza left uninhabitable and inaccessible, Gazans facing renewed bombardment have nowhere left to flee. We fear an even greater catastrophe is imminent if the fighting continues.
We reiterate our call for a durable ceasefire—one that allows for protection of Gaza’s civilians, the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid to those in need, and the release of all hostages.
The renewed fighting takes place in the midst of a rapidly spiraling humanitarian catastrophe. It may result in further mass displacement, and there is a growing likelihood of large-scale secondary mortality among displaced Palestinians. Basic services have been destroyed; access to food and water withheld; the spread of disease is worsening; the World Food Program is warning of famine; and much of Gaza’s health care sector has collapsed. As humanitarians, we know the devastating human toll that inevitably ensues when these scourges combine.
To avert a new wave of deaths, fighting must cease, and Israel must immediately lift the siege and reverse its decision to sharply reduce humanitarian aid from Egypt. Lifesaving humanitarian aid must never be a military bargaining chip. We reiterate that collective punishment tactics and the withholding of aid from civilians are both clearly articulated as war crimes under International Humanitarian Law.
We are also deeply concerned about new reports that “safe zones” may be proposed within Gaza. Attempts to designate safe zones have a deeply checkered history and have mostly led to greater harm for people sheltered within them (such as in Bosnia or Sri Lanka). Safe zones are not workable in a context like Gaza. Policies that seek to use aid to induce further displacement, or push people involuntarily into prescribed “safe areas,” must also be avoided.
Both sides continue to be responsible for apparent violations of International Humanitarian Law. Refugees International again calls on Hamas to release all hostages without condition, and to halt its indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian areas. We likewise call on Israel to adhere to its obligations under IHL by ending its use of illegal siege tactics; ending indiscriminate and disproportionate military tactics; and allowing the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid.
The Biden administration is right to publicly warn the government of Israel that the devastating conduct of its military operations in the North cannot be repeated in the South. Based on the intensity of the last 48 hours, and its demands upon the civilian population to displace yet further south, Israel appears to be ignoring this warning. The administration must begin to exercise its full political, security, and diplomatic leverage with Israel to uphold and enforce Israel’s adherence to its obligations under international law.”
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Etant Dupain at firstname.lastname@example.org.