The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is facing significant disruptions to its humanitarian operations due to Israel's recent ground operations in Rafah. This situation has led to the closure of the Rafah crossing and a blockade on entry of humanitarian workers and aid, including fuel, critically hindering our ability to deliver essential services and aid to those in desperate need.

An IRC and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) emergency medical team (EMT) was initially scheduled to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing on May 13. They remain unable to do so due to the persistent closure of the crossing. Our EMT provides emergency and life-saving medical care, including direct medical care at hospitals, and the distribution of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

One of IRC's partners in southern Gaza has been severely impacted, leading to the temporary suspension of operations.

Kiryn Lanning, IRC Team Lead for the occupied Palestinian territory, said,

“I have recently returned from Gaza, where the scale of the crisis defies imagination. Facilities across southern Gaza have been repurposed into makeshift shelters overflowing into the streets. Following Israel’s evacuation orders since May 6, over 400,000 Palestinians have been displaced from Rafah and relocated to Khan Younis and Deir Al Balah, drastically overburdening the already stretched shelter facilities. This displaced population is now facing acute shortages of basic necessities such as food, water, and adequate sanitation.

“What we are witnessing in Rafah is nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe. The ongoing Israeli bombardment, combined with the closure of the Rafah crossing, has led to critical fuel shortages and severe movement restrictions, paralysing all humanitarian operations. Fuel, crucial for everything from health care services and food production to powering electricity and operating essential municipal functions such as water wells and sewage pumps, is in dire shortage. Without it, Gaza is teetering on the brink of becoming a complete disaster zone. The reopening of this border crossing and the increased flow of aid are essential to avert an irreversible collapse.

“The health care system in Gaza is nearing collapse. A complete lack of fuel which is needed for generators in the few functioning hospitals is exacerbating the crisis. The Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah, the last functioning hospital in the area, has received an evacuation order. With no remaining health facilities to serve the trapped population of at least a million in Rafah, and other facilities under-equipped and understaffed, the health care crisis is rapidly intensifying. Ambulances, essential for transporting the injured and sick, are unable to move.

“Food security is reaching a critical point at a time where the entire population faces alarming levels of hunger and starvation. Up to 9% of children (aged 6 months to 5 years) in southern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition. Eight out of 12 UN-supported bakeries in southern Gaza have already ceased operations, and the remaining four more are on the brink of closure due to the ongoing fuel and supply shortages. As people become displaced into further crowded areas due to evacuation notices, the modest gains achieved in the recent month around improving food security for 1.3 million people will be quickly undone as they are displaced to areas without essential services. These essential municipal services like water wells, sewage systems, and solid waste collection are on the verge of stopping if the fuel supply is not promptly restored, significantly heightening the risk of infectious diseases spreading.”

The IRC urgently calls on Israel to halt the offensive on Rafah, reopen the Rafah crossing, and ensure unfettered access throughout Gaza for desperately needed humanitarian aid. Aid workers must be allowed to continue their critical work. To prevent further loss of life in this escalating conflict, it is imperative that the protection of civilians is prioritised. The IRC reiterates its call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and the release of all hostages.