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According to the United Nations, roughly 1 million people have fled Rafah in recent weeks as Israel intensifies its attacks on the southern Gaza city.

The mass exodus is a response to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, with over a million Palestinians seeking refuge in Rafah. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported that the movement occurred amid “bombardments, lack of food and water, piles of waste and unsuitable living conditions.”

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The majority of the displaced Palestinians have moved to a nearby “humanitarian zone” designated by Israel. However, aid organizations have pointed out that this area is heavily undersupplied and overcrowded. Suze van Meegen, the head of operations in Gaza for the Norwegian Refugee Council, criticized the situation, stating, “As we can see, there is nothing ‘humanitarian’ about these areas.” According to aid workers, the zone lacks essential facilities such as central kitchens, marketplaces, and hospitals, with only small tents offering limited medical services. Access to clean water and proper sewage infrastructure is also scarce.

Mercy Corps, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to humanitarian aid, warned that it is only a matter of time before food insecurity becomes a significant issue. Although over 120 aid trucks entered Rafah from Egypt on Sunday, the first since Israel seized the crossing, it remains unclear if local aid groups can distribute the supplies due to the ongoing war. Humanitarian convoys have dwindled to nearly their lowest levels since the war began, severely hampering relief efforts.

Image Flash Update 17 24 October 2023

Despite warnings from the Biden administration, the Israeli military has continued its advance on Rafah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to completely “destroy Hamas” from the entire region. Despite this, President Biden had previously cautioned that military aid to Israel would be halted if an invasion of Rafah occurred without a plan to minimize civilian casualties.


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