Statement from Refugees International:
“Refugees International is gravely concerned about catastrophic civilian and humanitarian needs inside of Gaza following the Israeli military’s order to evacuate half of Gaza’s population—half of whom are children—into the south of the territory within 24 hours.
The order clearly violates international law and appears to presage potential crimes against humanity by the government of Israel toward Palestinian civilians. While the evacuation order is framed as a protective measure for civilians amidst military operations, it is self-evidently impossible to protect the lives of civilians amid this type of mass forced displacement.
Issuing such an evacuation order does not absolve the Israeli military of its explicit obligations under international law to protect civilians.
Israel has cut electricity and telecommunications to Gaza, limiting the meaningful dissemination of the evacuation order. Airstrikes have damaged or destroyed critical civilian infrastructure including health facilities, schools, and water and sanitation facilities. The order comes at a time when families across Gaza are tending to those left sick, injured, and dead by the ongoing military assault. Gaza’s southern region lacks the capacity and infrastructure needed, including shelter, sanitation, and medical services, to absorb a sudden displacement of more than 1.1 million people. Humanitarian personnel and supplies are unable to access the territory, and the main entry point at Rafah has been bombed repeatedly by Israel. People evacuating have been killed by Israeli airstrikes.
This situation will produce a historic calamity. As military operations expand, all efforts must be made to protect civilian lives in Gaza:
- Israel must immediately restore the delivery of food, water, and fuel, and turn on electricity in Gaza. No amount of humanitarian aid can offset the willful withholding of these basic lifesaving services. Supplies of power and fuel to run hospitals and other critical civilian infrastructure are nearly out and must be provided to keep the lights on in hospitals—and to keep ventilators and neonatal intensive care units running.
- Warring parties must immediately allow humanitarian aid to safely move into and within the territory; allow wounded people to access urgently needed medical services; ensure displaced populations can access adequate services and shelter; and establish proactive coordination with humanitarian actors (“humanitarian deconfliction”) to ensure their operations are not targeted. None of this is currently possible in the territory.
- The United States and international donors must urgently surge in strategic humanitarian stockpiles of basic goods, food, and medicine.
Refugees International again reiterates our unreserved condemnation of Hamas’ horrific and unjustifiable attacks on civilians during the incursion into Israeli territory. As more detail on their scale and brutality emerges, it appears that these attacks constitute crimes against humanity. We further condemn Hamas’ continued holding of hostages from those attacks, and its indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian targets within Israel. Hamas must release hostages and halt indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets immediately. All of these acts violate the laws of war.
Reciprocal crimes against humanity between Hamas and the Israeli military will lead inevitably to a historic humanitarian calamity that will principally devastate civilians. There can be no legitimizing such actions by either side. To argue otherwise is to make crimes against humanity contingent upon mere politics – which is to dilute their gravity and betray our shared humanity. This is an unspeakably dangerous path.”
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International Media and Communications Manager Etant Dupain at firstname.lastname@example.org.