Aid groups say Israel’s Operation Rafah has worsened the dire situation in Gaza

From deadly attacks on medical workers to inner-city districts razed to rubble, the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip is worsening, aid officials said Thursday. leaving humanitarian groups struggling to deal with the devastation caused by Israel’s war against Hamas.

The dire situation has been exacerbated over the past three weeks by Israel’s military operation in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where more than half of the enclave’s population previously sought refuge during the war. painting. The fighting there has caused massive waves of displacement and widespread destruction of medical and humanitarian services.

“Our humanitarian partners working in Gaza tell us that conditions are now getting worse,” Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, wrote on social media on Thursday. ever”.

The Palestinians briefly returned to Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, having fled after a school was attacked by Israel.Credit…Omar Al-Qattaa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Senior members of the Biden administration have said in recent days thatThe deteriorating conditions of civilians in Gaza have not yet reached a critical point that it would prompt a change in U.S. policy on arming Israel. President Biden has warned earlier this month that the United States would block certain weapons shipments if Israel targeted populated areas in Rafah in a large-scale attack.

Many humanitarian and health care groups have described a deepening crisis, not only in terms of a major drop in aid but also because the intensity of the bombing is causing hospitals to close and forcing wards examination had to be relocated.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Thursday two of its medical staff were killed in an Israeli attack, bringing to 19 the number of staff and volunteers killed in the war in Gaza.

The International Committee of the Red Crescent wrote of the attack: “This is another reminder of the grim reality facing medical workers – death, exhaustion and horrifying scenes every day. day after day”.

Responding to a request for comment on the attack, the Israeli military told the New York Times that a “suspicious vehicle” approached Israeli soldiers in a way that “posed a threat to forces operating in the area.” Rafah area”.

“Accordingly, an IDF tank fired towards the vehicle,” the military statement added, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. The strike, it said, was under consideration.

Members of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society pray near the bodies of two medical workers who died when an ambulance on a rescue mission was hit by gunfire during an Israeli attack in Rafah.Credit…HHR Khaled/Reuters

Aid groups have issued increasingly urgent warnings not only about the situation around Rafah but also about the impact of the fighting there on humanitarian work across Gaza. The town’s border crossing with Egypt is a main aid delivery route but has been closed for weeks because of fighting. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, aid shipments to the enclave have dropped 67% since Israel launched its campaign there.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Thursday that 53 people were killed in the previous 24 hours, as fierce fighting broke out in Rafah and the outskirts of Gaza City.

Further north in the area, videos taken Thursday by residents who rushed to the town of Jabaliya after Israeli tanks withdrew showed chunks of cratered concrete and collapsed buildings.

The widespread destruction underscores the daily struggle of civilians and aid workers to find safety.

An attack on Sunday set a refugee camp ablaze in Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan district, killing 45 people, and a strike on Tuesday in Al Mawasi, a coastal area near Rafah, killed 21 people. death, has increased confusion and fear. between both civilians and aid workers.

Israel insists that it does not attack areas it designates as “humanitarian zones” where evacuated Gazans have been directed. However, social media posts and leaflets Israel drops on Gaza to identify areas are sometimes unclear.

Some civilians contacted said they had never seen any leaflets, while others said directions, including the numbering system the IDF uses to describe different areas, confused them.

Displaced Palestinians gather near a makeshift camp in the Tal al-Sultan district of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.Credit…Eyad Baba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We don’t understand the direction,” said Rafeef Aziz, 37, a mother of four who recently fled Rafah for Deir al-Balah, which an Israeli military spokesman called a “safer” area. cited in leaflets dropped by the army. . “We ask each other and follow what the majority believes.”

Even when civilians and humanitarian groups understand the guidance, they may still have difficulty following it.

Louise Wateridge, a spokeswoman for UNRWA, the main United Nations agency assisting the Palestinians, said the area’s unreliable mobile network had made it difficult for aid groups like hers to respond. inform their employees where they believe it is safe to go or move equipment.

For people, Ms. Wateridge said, leaflets often spread more fear than usable information.

“What can you tell people?” she speaks. “No one knows where to go. It was panic, it was chaos. Many people saw those leaflets as only meaning that death was approaching.”

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, Abu Bakr Bashir and Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.


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