War in Gaza: a million Palestinians fled Rafah

Война в Газе: из Рафаха бежал миллион палестинцев

Thousands of families are fleeing Rafah. War in Gaza: a million Palestinians fled Rafah Peace and security

A million people have already fled Rafah in southern Gaza, officials from the UN relief agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said on Monday, amid reports of more overnight shelling across the enclave.

The city of Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, has been a refuge for more than a million people forced to flee their homes elsewhere in the Strip due to Israeli military bombing that began in response to a Hamas attack in southern Israel on October 7.

The health of mothers and children is at risk

Three days ago, US President Joe Biden unveiled a ceasefire proposal based on a gradual end to the war, which reportedly includes the withdrawal of Israeli troops from built-up areas, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and a plan for the reconstruction of Gaza.

According to UNRWA, thousands of families were forced to search shelters in heavily damaged buildings in Khan Yunis. The city, which lies north of Rafah, is home to an estimated 1.7 million people. All 36 UNRWA shelters in Rafah are currently empty.

The UN agency continues to provide basic humanitarian assistance despite increasingly difficult conditions. According to UNRWA, about 690 thousand women and girls do not have access to hygiene products and adequate conditions.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that about 18,500 are pregnant women were forced to flee Rafah. “About 10,000 more remain there in desperate conditions,” UNRWA said on platform X. “The health of mothers and children is at risk.”

Beyond the crisis 

In turn, from The UN World Food Program (WFP) said there was currently “little we can do for the people remaining in Rafah” as roads there are unsafe, access to the population is limited and “most partners and other humanitarian organizations have had to relocate.”

The WFP warns that public health problems are now “beyond a crisis” and approaching “apocalyptic levels.” 

People have had to flee to areas where where there is a shortage of clean water, medicine and support services, limited food supplies and poor communications, said WFP Palestine head Matthew Hollingworth.

Call for recognition of Palestine

Meanwhile, on Monday, independent UN human rights experts called on all countries to recognize the State of Palestine, as 146 UN member states have already done. Such a step would be an important recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people, their suffering and struggle for freedom and independence, the experts said in a statement. 

They noted that the State of Palestine, officially declared by the Palestine Liberation Organization on November 15, 1988, claims sovereignty over parts of historical Palestine occupied by Israel in 1967: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. 

As of May 28, 2024, the State of Palestine has been recognized by most UN member states, including most recently Ireland, Norway and Spain.

The experts, who are not UN staff but work under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, stressed that Palestine must be able to “enjoy full self-determination, including the ability to exist.” This would be “a precondition for lasting peace in Palestine and throughout the Middle East, starting with the immediate declaration of a ceasefire in Gaza and the renunciation of further military incursions in Rafah,” they noted.

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ICC prosecutor requests arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

Recalling the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to cease military operations in Rafah, UN experts added that the arrest warrants requested by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court against the Prime Minister of Israel, the country’s Minister of Defense and Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes are “a promise to bring [the perpetrators] to justice and end impunity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”


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