The IRC is horrified that Israel has issued evacuation orders to people sheltering in eastern Rafah. With the rest of Gaza already decimated and lacking the infrastructure needed to support humanitarian operations, there is nowhere else for civilians and aid agencies to go. An Israeli offensive on Rafah would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences and sever already limited lifelines available for those in need.

As Israel continues to threaten a ground invasion on Rafah, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls for Israel to immediately refrain from any attack that would risk the lives of more than 1 million people currently trapped there. Rafah’s population has increased by more than 300% since October, with more than half of Gaza’s 2.2 million population now seeking refuge in the city or surrounding area. The majority are residing in temporary shelters or tents, and are particularly vulnerable to escalating hostilities.

Not only have Palestinians in Rafah already been displaced multiple times, there is simply nowhere safe left for them to go. Any offensive on the whole of Rafah would jeopardise the entire Gaza humanitarian response given the proximity to the vital crossing point with Egypt just outside the city. Disruption to humanitarian activities at a time when famine is imminent would have incalculable repercussions. 

As the IRC warned in February, if Israel attacks Rafah as it did in Gaza City and Khan Younis, all parts of Gaza will be destroyed - alongside any lifeline of hope and survival for people there. 

Kiryn Lanning, IRC Country Director for occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), said:

“An invasion of Rafah would be unconscionable. Not only will it put more than 1 million civilians at risk of death and displacement, but it will completely cut off the current trickling of aid that is crossing from Egypt through Rafah. Without that border crossing, the majority of the population - already facing imminent famine - will likely lose access to humanitarian aid coming in. Aid agencies will have no way of sending in staff. Planned programming to support children with malnutrition and our work with partners to provide psychosocial support and cash assistance will be nearly impossible to continue, let alone to scale up. This is as bad as it gets and will lead to horrifying levels of suffering and death. If not stopped, this offensive will result in catastrophic humanitarian consequences despite months of warnings from organisations like the IRC.”

The IRC calls on Israel to refrain from an offensive on Rafah and urges the international community to use all their diplomatic leverage to bring about an immediate and permanent ceasefire, alongside a significant scale up of aid efforts to avert further catastrophe.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) have deployed five successive Emergency Medical Teams to provide emergency and life-saving medical care, including direct medical care at hospitals, and the distribution of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Our teams have also procured or released vital pharmaceuticals and medical supplies which the IRC and our partners are distributing to support health facilities across Gaza. Meanwhile, the IRC is supporting partners to provide mental health and psychosocial support in shelters, as well as cash assistance to help people meet their basic needs.