After four grueling months of the Israeli ongoing genocide in Gaza, marked by what has been termed the most catastrophic war in recent history, the toll has been staggering: over 100,000 individuals martyred, wounded, or missing, and more than half of the population internally displaced.
Amid this backdrop of devastation, the Israeli government has announced intentions to continue its military operations, actions that are anticipated to lead to the killing of thousands more.
On Friday, the Israeli Security Minister unveiled plans to escalate military actions in southern Gaza, specifically targeting Rafah.
This city, positioned along the Egyptian border, has become a refuge for the majority of Palestinians fleeing the relentless Israeli onslaughts and massacres throughout the Strip. Rafah, now overwhelmed with makeshift tent cities, has become a sanctuary for families desperately seeking respite from the occupation’s violence that has besieged their lives.
“We complete the mission and will continue to Rafah,” Yoav Gallant posted on social media on Friday, claiming that this comes after the occupation army “dismantled” the Resistance in Khan Younis.
According to “Tel Aviv,” the main purpose of the operation is to “take control” of the “Philadelphi Axis,” a 14 km narrow strip of land that separates Palestine from Egypt, extending from the Israeli-controlled Karam Abu Salem crossing, linking the Gaza Strip and occupied territories, to the southernmost point on the Strip’s coast.
Cairo repeatedly announced its complete opposition to the ground invasion plot, with Egyptian officials warning that this serves the Israeli agenda to expel Palestinians from Gaza toward Sinai.
However, the occupation entity seems to be planning to move ahead with the attack nonetheless.
For weeks, humanitarian organizations and activists have warned that a military operation in the now densely-populated city would deepen the already catastrophic conditions Palestinians are living in, especially with the spread of famine and infectious diseases due to the Israeli blockade on medicine, food, water and fuel.
“The loss of life we face if Israel goes down into Gaza is huge,” said Bob Kitchen, vice president for emergencies at the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian relief organization operating in Gaza.
‘Pressure cooker of despair’
The United Nations estimated that almost nine out of ten people in Gaza have been forcibly displaced by Israelis.
According to Juliette Touma, the director of communications at the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the population of Rafah soared to a minimum of 1.4 million people out of the Strip’s 2.2 million population, up from around 280,000 before the Israeli war on Gaza started last October.
Further detailing the situation, Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warned on Friday that Rafah had become a “pressure cooker of despair.”
Many of the people today in Rafah were “living in makeshift structures, tents, or out in the open,” Laerke said.
However, this did not stop Israelis from regularly bombarding it, leading to dozens of massacres, including several attacks on the Rafah crossing to prevent aid trucks from moving into Gaza from Egypt.
The occupation entity had previously designated Khan Younis and Rafah as “safe areas,” ordering Palestinians living in northern Gaza to move toward the cities, along other areas south of the Strip. As the aggression continued, Khan Younis later became the center of Israeli attacks and has remained so for almost two months now.
Suffering did not end there
The situation was made even worse when Israeli settlers started a roadblock last week to prevent aid trucks from moving into the besieged Strip through the Karam Abu Salem and Nitzana crossings.
“People in Gaza risk dying of hunger just miles from trucks filled with food,” Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Program, referring to aid stuck on the borders banned by Israelis from entry.
Winter and heavy rain have severely impacted civilians living in tents or near destroyed infrastructure in Rafah, who are now also forced to live in inhumane sanitary conditions.
Palestinian media reported in the previous weeks many deaths that were caused due to the bitter cold weather and lack of shelter.
“Thousands and thousands of people are sharing individual toilets,” Kitchen said, adding that IRC workers in Rafah had seen “queues of 4 to 5 hours” to use the bathrooms.
“We’re already seeing massive reports of acute watery diarrhea, which I think, if tested, would be proven to be cholera,” Kitchen added.
But the suffering of Palestinians does not end there.
Earlier this week, the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia and over a dozen more countries announced suspending funds to UNRWA, citing Israeli intelligence reports claiming that “12 out of 12,000 UNRWA employees” are members of Hamas, some of which even took part in the October 7 operation.
However, the Israeli occupation has yet to provide any evidence.
With this announcement, UNRWA warned that if the halt in funds continues, the main humanitarian organization today operating in Gaza would have to shut down its work in the Strip by the end of February.