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Palestinians flee imminent Rafah invasion

Palestinians have begun fleeing eastern Rafah following Israeli evacuation orders issued on 6 May. The orders are seen as a precursor to a long-threatened Israeli ground invasion of the southernmost region of the Gaza Strip. 

World leaders and humanitarian organisations have repeatedly warned that a ground invasion of Rafah will have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

Around 1.5 million people (65% of Gaza’s population) are sheltering in Rafah, which was home to about 275,000 before the war. The city serves as a logistics hub for aid organisations and is where the two main border crossings that have been used to deliver humanitarian assistance to Gaza are located. 

The Israeli evacuation orders instruct Palestinians to go to an expanded humanitarian zone in al-Mawasi, a strip of largely agricultural land on the coast to the west of Rafah that is already hosting hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Local aid groups and humanitarian organisations have been trying to expand their capacity in al-Mawasi ahead of the anticipated invasion, but say there is only so much they can do, given Israeli-imposed restrictions. They also say there’s no way the region will be able to accommodate mass forced displacement from Rafah.

The evacuation orders come after indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a temporary ceasefire failed to reach an agreement over the weekend.

The New Humanitarian recently spoke to five Palestinians in Rafah to understand what they fear the most about a looming Israeli invasion and the daily struggles they face securing their basic needs. Read their account in our recent article: ‘If we survive’: Palestinians in Rafah on fears of an imminent Israeli invasion

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