• Press Release

Israeli Military Must Guarantee Civilians’ Safety as Ground Operation Gets Underway in Eastern Rafah 

May 7, 2024

(Contributor via Getty)

Responding to the Israeli military’s orders for over 100,000 residents, most of whom are internally displaced, to “evacuate” whole neighborhoods in Eastern Rafah amid news its military operations in the area are already underway, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research, Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns said: 

“The Israeli army’s latest ‘evacuation’ order, issued just 24 hours before it began a ground incursion into eastern Rafah, comes hot on the heels of intensified bombardment in the southern governorate. It follows months-long threats to launch a large-scale ground operation in Rafah, which will further compound the unspeakable suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.  

“In a cruel and inhumane move that already illustrates the disastrous impact of such an operation on civilians, Israeli tanks have launched a ground incursion on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, blocking a crucial lifeline for humanitarian aid for a population already facing famine and the risk of genocide.  

“All states must pressure Israel to immediately halt its ground operations in Rafah and ensure unfettered access for humanitarian aid in line with their obligations to prevent genocide as reiterated by the International Court of Justice on March 28, 2024.  

“The Israeli military must also rescind their order to civilians to ‘evacuate’ eastern Rafah unless they can guarantee the population’s safety, which is highly unlikely under the intense military attacks that Israel has been relentlessly conducting for seven months across the entire Gaza Strip.” 

The extended ‘safe areas’, proposed for relocation of civilians in the military’s leaflets, lack the most basic standards for safe and dignified living. Some of the areas in Khan Younis to which residents are ordered to go have already been subjected to massive destruction due to Israeli bombardment and have been rendered uninhabitable. Most of the residents ordered – yet again – to “evacuate” have already been displaced on multiple occasions since October 2023.  

“Palestinian civilians in Gaza are human beings, not pawns to be moved around a chessboard at the whim of the Israeli authorities. The notion that displaced civilians are safe anywhere in Gaza has proved a fallacy time and again as the Israeli military has attacked areas it had previously designated as safe. 

“As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for ensuring the safety of the Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, who are protected persons under international humanitarian law, including by providing services and supplies necessary for their survival. Not only has Israel consistently failed to do so, but it has also continued to hinder the provision of such services to Gaza’s civilian population by United Nations humanitarian agencies and international aid organizations since 2007,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.  

“In the absence of any guarantees for residents’ safety and safe return to their homes, including to areas north of Wadi Gaza, as prescribed by international humanitarian law, the repeated evacuation orders are unlawful under international law and may amount to forcible transfer. Only an immediate and sustained ceasefire by all parties can put an end to mass civilian suffering and restore some faith in the universal value of international law.” 


On October 13, the Israeli military issued the first mass “evacuation” order to civilians in Gaza, instructing 1.1 million people north of Wadi Gaza to relocate southwards within 24 hours. Since then, nearly 90% of Gaza’s population has been displaced at least once. A new wave of mass displacement in Rafah, amidst relentless bombardment, will only exacerbate the man-made humanitarian catastrophe. The latest “evacuation” order to residents of eastern Rafah was issued a day after a mortar attack claimed by Hamas killed four Israeli soldiers near the Kerem Shalom crossing.  

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