The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan, and Al-Haq are sounding the alarm over the possible expansion and escalation of ground attacks by the Israeli military in Rafah, southern Gaza. This escalation would significantly exacerbate the ongoing genocidal acts perpetrated by the Israeli military and authorities against the Palestinian population in Gaza and blatantly violates the provisional measures order issued by the International Court of Justice on 26 January 2024. These measures explicitly ordered Israel to take immediate and effective actions to ensure that its military forces refrain from committing any of the genocidal acts outlined under Article II of the Genocide Convention.
Recent statements from top Israeli military officials and the observed pattern on the ground strongly suggest an imminent assault on Rafah, reminiscent of the destructive actions witnessed in Khan Younis and throughout northern Gaza in the past four months. Such an attack could result in an unprecedented loss of Palestinian lives: the Rafah District is currently hosting around 1.3 million Palestinians, more than half of Gaza’s total population, most of whom are living in makeshift structures, tents, or out in the open. Rafah has been consistently labeled as a 'safe zone' by the Israeli military, prompting hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Palestinians to seek shelter there. However, our organizations reaffirm that nowhere in Gaza is safe.
The Israeli military has consistently shelled and bombed Rafah from air, sea, and land, with a recent attack killing 17 Palestinians, including children and women. Notwithstanding this, a comprehensive ground invasion has not yet transpired. Nevertheless, statements from the Israeli Defense Minister, which include an expressed intention for Israel to control the border between Gaza and Egypt, coupled with the ongoing bombardments, heighten concerns about the imminent possibility of a ground invasion.
Israel's genocidal military campaign in Gaza has already led to a staggering toll, with at least 100,000 Palestinians killed, injured, or missing. This grim figure represents approximately 4% of the total population of the Gaza Strip. Considering the current population density in the Rafah District, our organizations emphasize that an Israeli ground invasion would probably have the most severe impact since the beginning of Israel’s genocidal military campaign against Gaza. This could result in an unparalleled number of Palestinian killings, and forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to seek refuge into Egypt, which would constitute the crime of forcible deportation. Our organizations contend that the potential scenario could surpass the number of Palestinians forcibly expelled by Zionist militias and the Israeli military during the 1948 Nakba. Immediate preventive measures are imperative to avert such a scenario.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan, and Al-Haq urgently appeal to the international community—particularly the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights—to promptly intervene and utilize all available means to prevent a new Nakba and bring an end to the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza. Furthermore, the organizations caution Israel's allies, emphasizing their potential complicity in the crime of genocide through unwavering military and political support or failure to prevent genocide. We urge them to fulfil their legal obligations, act promptly to protect Palestinians, halt mass killings, and bring an end to the genocidal acts that have persisted for the past four months.