Home News Aid groups say Israel’s Rafah operation exacerbates dire conditions in Gaza

Aid groups say Israel’s Rafah operation exacerbates dire conditions in Gaza

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From deadly attacks on medical staff to flattened urban areas, rapidly deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip are further hampering humanitarian organizations’ efforts to address the devastation wrought by Israel’s war with Hamas, aid officials said Thursday.

The situation has been exacerbated over the past three weeks by Israel’s military operation against the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of the Gaza Strip’s population sought refuge during the war. The fighting there has led to massive displacement of refugees and widespread disruption of medical and humanitarian services.

“Humanitarian partners working in Gaza tell us the situation is worse now than ever before,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power wrote on social media Thursday.

Palestinians who briefly returned to Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip search for shelter after a school was attacked by Israel.Credit…Omar Khatta/AFP—Getty Images

Senior Biden administration officials have said in recent days thatThe deterioration of conditions for civilians in Gaza has not yet reached This will prompt the United States to change its policy of arming Israel. President Biden Earlier this month, the warning The United States will block certain arms transfers if Israel launches a large-scale offensive against the densely populated area of ​​Rafah.

Many humanitarian and medical organizations believe the crisis is deepening, not only with a significant reduction in aid but also with the intensity of bombings that have led to the closure of hospitals and forced relocation of clinics.

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

“This is yet another reminder of the grim reality facing health workers – scenes of death, exhaustion and horror that continue day after day,” the International Committee of the Red Crescent wrote of the attack.

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

“It is believed that an IDF tank opened fire on the vehicle,” the IDF statement added, adding that plans for the attack were under review.

Members of the Palestinian Red Crescent pray beside the bodies of two medics who were killed in Rafah when an ambulance they were carrying out a rescue mission was hit in an Israeli attack.Credit…Hatem Khaled/Reuters

Aid groups have sounded increasingly urgent warnings not only about the situation around Rafah, but also about the impact of the fighting there on humanitarian efforts across Gaza. The town’s border crossing with Egypt, the main route for aid deliveries, has been closed for weeks because of the fighting. Aid deliveries to the region have fallen by 67 percent since Israel launched its operation there, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Thursday that heavy fighting in Rafah and the outskirts of Gaza city had killed 53 people in the past 24 hours.

Further north in the enclave, videos shot Thursday by residents who poured into the town of Jabaliya after Israeli tanks withdrew showed block after block of cratered concrete and flattened buildings.

The massive destruction highlights the daily struggles faced by civilians and aid workers seeking safety.

An attack on Sunday that set a refugee camp on fire in the Sultan district of Rafah killed 45 people, while another attack on Tuesday in the coastal area of ​​Al Mawasi near Rafah killed 21 people, adding to the confusion and fear among civilians and rescue workers.

Israel insists it has not attacked areas designated as “humanitarian zones” where evacuated Gazans were directed to go, but Israeli social media posts and leaflets dropped in Gaza sometimes identify those areas without making clear what they are.

Some civilians contacted said they had never seen any leaflets, while others said they were confused by the instructions, which included a numbering system used by the IDF to describe different areas.

Displaced Palestinians gather near a makeshift camp in the Tal Sultan district of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.Credit…Iyad Baba/AFP – Getty Images

“We don’t understand the instructions on the leaflets the army distributed,” said Rafeef Aziz, 37, a mother of four who recently fled Rafah for Deir al-Balah, which is within what an Israeli military spokesman calls a “safe” zone. “We ask each other and follow the majority’s advice.”

Even if civilians and humanitarian groups understand the instructions, following them can still be challenging.

Louise Wateridge, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the main U.N. aid agency for Palestinians, said unreliable mobile networks make it difficult for aid groups like hers to explain to staff where they think it is safe to go or move equipment.

Ms Waterridge said for residents the leaflets often spread more fear than useful information.

“What can you tell people?” she said. “No one knows where to go. People are panicking, there’s confusion. A lot of people think these leaflets just mean death is coming.”

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, Abu Bakr Bashir and Johnatan Reiss contributed to this article.

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