UN leaders urgently call on Israel to avoid large scale offensive in Rafah News
IDF Spokesperson's Unit, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN leaders urgently call on Israel to avoid large scale offensive in Rafah

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk reminded world leaders on Sunday that a general assault by Israel in the Gazan city of Rafah “cannot be reconciled with the binding demands of international humanitarian law, or the binding provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).” Türk’s statement came just a day after UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned of the “catastrophic consequences” a full-scale invasion Rafah would bring.

Israel issued evacuation orders for approximately 100,000 civilians in Rafah on May 6. Since then, over 300,000 civilians have fled, according to the UN. Rafah had previously been designated a safe zone and holds approximately half of Gaza’s population. Türk stressed that some of the towns to which civilians are supposed to flee have been destroyed and many are still under attack. Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) stated Saturday that the “claim of safezones is false and misleading” because there is nowhere safe for civilians to go.

The UN reported that Israel’s military operations in Rafah have “crippled” humanitarian operations across the enclave. The UN continues to highlight that starvation and exhaustion is rampant among civilians in Gaza. There have also been attacks against UNRWA facilities in East Jerusalum, and places in which civilians can access aid are generally out of reach. Essential humanitarian services such as hospitals, and the supply of food are being hindered by the continuing shortage of fuel.  On May 8th, the UN stated that the offensive in Rafah had completely cut off Gaza from humanitarian aid.

Since then, Israel has highlighted the opening of new humanitarian corridors. It states that these routes have been opened to aid due to “the essential requirements of the international community”.

The offensive in Rafah is opposed by most of the international community, including the US. Israel’s offensive in Rafah began on May 6, when it announced strikes against Hamas. These strikes followed Israel’s rejection of a ceasefire deal that Hamas had accepted. Israel maintains that its military operations on Rafah remain “limited in scope,” claiming that military actions are focused on tactical and military targets.

Over 30,000 people have been killed, and more than 70,000 injured since the war in Gaza began. UN officials have reported that hundreds of civilians have been killed while waiting for aid.

In response to the new offensive, South Africa made an application to the ICJ requesting additional binding provisional measures that would call for Israel’s immediate withdrawal from Rafah. South Africa began legal proceedings before the ICJ in December, charging Israel with acts of genocide against Palestinians. Since then, Colombia, Nicaragua and Libya have intervened against Israel.

Israel denies allegations of genocide against Palestinians, deriding such accusations as antisemitic.