Press Releases

Empty Words of Concern will not Prevent Israel’s Ongoing Genocidal Assault on Rafah
Empty Words of Concern will not Prevent Israel’s Ongoing Genocidal Assault on Rafah

After almost 5 months of Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians remain unprotected and continue to be killed, starved, and displaced over and over again. Both Western Colonial States and the Arab States have been offering empty statements expressing concern and warnings. However, none, including Israel, have taken any practical actions to prevent genocide - ignoring the ICJ’s provisional measures. Satisfied with only voicing concerns over the humanitarian crisis and the safe evacuation of Palestinians from Rafah, western colonial powers (such as the USA, the EU and its member States, UK, Canada, Australia), continue to arm and support Israel.

Israel’s genocidal war has now reached a critical point: an ongoing onslaught on the city of Rafah, along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt. Rafah, whose pre-war population was about 300,000, now teems with about 1.4 million people — over half the territory's population — displaced into tent camps, overflowing apartments and makeshift shelters, after Israel forced Palestinians into Rafah and declared the city a “safe zone” , while it bombarded areas in northern and central Gaza for four months.

On 12 February, South Africa asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to examine whether Israel’s planned attack on Rafah required additional emergency measures to safeguard the rights of Palestinians. Pretoria’s government voiced concern that an attack in Rafah would result in further large-scale killing, harm and destruction. Though the ICJ stated that the development in Rafah would "exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequence", it considered the provisional measures indicated on 26 January sufficient.

In its response to South Africa’s request to the ICJ, Israel claimed that it is following the provisional measures. Its actions, however, clearly indicate a complete disregard for the provisional measures and international law, as Israel continues to attack Rafah, restricts the provision of aid, and obstructs the operations of UN and international humanitarian agencies.

Further, aid agencies have alerted that Palestinians in Rafah have nowhere else to go, and that no evacuation plan has been put forward. Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the United Nations Palestinian Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, asked “Where are you going to evacuate people to, as no place is safe across the Gaza Strip, the north is shattered, riddled with unexploded weapons, it’s pretty much unlivable.”

The reality is that “humanitarian crisis” and “unlivable” no long accurately describe the current situation in the Gaza Strip. Israel crossed that line, with the acquiescence of the international community, with its 17-year-old blockade. The current situation in the Gaza Strip can only be accurately described as genocide – a word that Western Colonial States are refusing to use.

The United States has repeatedly said it would oppose any displacement of Palestinians out of Gaza. Biden has urged Israel to provide an “executable and credible plan”, and asserting that "the U.S. is not funding camps in Egypt for displaced Palestinians". Yet, there is a planned shipment of more US weapons to be sent to support Israel’s aggression on Rafah. In addition, the US has exercised its veto power for the 3rd time on the resolution for ceasefire in the UN Security Council – blatantly greenlighting Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Rafah and genocide.

The UK is worried about “the potential human costs”, but continues to talk about the “atrocity” of 7 October, and to insist on Israel’s “right to self-defense”, without acknowledging Israel’s genocide, or its own obligations to prevent genocide. The UK also abstained from voting on the most recent ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council.

The EU, through its High Representative Josep Borrell, has repeatedly expressed concern about “the catastrophic situation” in the Gaza Strip, and the dire humanitarian consequences of an attack against Rafah. However, it has taken no measures to halt Israel’s preferential treatment in the EU, such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement, nor to impose economic, diplomatic or military sanctions against Israel. While “nobody else can do what UNRWA is doing” according to Josep Borrell, many EU member States have actually defunded UNRWA, after baseless allegations made by Israel. In a recent statement, 26 EU member States jointly called “for an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a sustainable cease-fire" in Gaza. As many continue to provide arms to Israel, and/or persist in defending Israel’s “right to self-defense”, such a hollow declaration constitutes further duplicity that caters to Israel’s plans to continue with the genocide.

The Arab States warn about a regional escalation of war but have taken no measures to challenge Israel, and are content with their empty calls for ceasefire. Egypt expressed its concern that Israel’s ground assault on Rafah would push hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians across the border, which is highly probable. While official government statements assert that the ensuing construction on the Egyptian side of Rafah is for a parking lot and warehouse, it does seem that Egypt is preparing for a worst-case scenario: mass forced transfer of Palestinians into Sinai. 

While Israel is the primary entity responsible for ensuring Palestinian protection, safety and security, all States have a duty to prevent genocide.

Meaningless statements will not ensure the entry of adequate humanitarian aid and will not end the killing, starvation, displacement and disease Palestinians are experiencing right now. These States’ concerns, warnings, and supposed interest in safe evacuation of Palestinians from Rafah, are no more than the facilitation of Israeli invasion of Rafah. The so-called “evacuation” of Palestinians from Rafah is just another way for Israel to kill Palestinians or force their displacement yet again, with the support of its colonial allies. For evacuations to comply with international humanitarian law (IHL), they must be done for the benefit and safety of the people, not for the benefit of Israel’s war.

For the last four months, the positions and statements of States have not made any progress in preventing and halting Israel’s Genocide in the Gaza Strip. On the contrary, such empty words, devoid of actions, have resulted in the killing of 29,195 Palestinians and the forced internal displacement of 1.7 million in the Gaza Strip.

If States’ concerns and warnings are sincere, they must take the following measures, in adherence to their obligations to prevent further genocide:

  • Acknowledge the situation in the Gaza Strip as genocide and impose an immediate and unconditional ceasefire;
  • Ensure the provision of unrestricted humanitarian aid, through unimpeded delivery of land, air and sea convoys;
  • Cease any military, economic and political aid to Israel and implement sanctions;
  • Resume and increase funding to UNRWA, as the UN mandated agency with the most presence, capacity and legitimacy to provide aid and assistance in the Gaza Strip;
  • Lift the 17-year blockade.