On-the-record update on situation in Gaza, Palestine

Media update from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) on the latest situation in Gaza, Thursday 23 May 2024.

An update from Suze van Meegen, NRC’s head of operations in Gaza:

“The city of Rafah is now comprised of three entirely different worlds: the east is an archetypal war zone, the middle is a ghost town, and the west is a congested mass of people living in deplorable conditions. 

“People have no choice but to put their faith in so-called ‘humanitarian safe zones’ designated by the forces that have killed their family members and destroyed their homes. They have dragged their families and few possessions onward to new locations for the seventh, eighth, ninth time in seven months of war. But as far as we can see, there is nothing ‘humanitarian’ about these areas. If humanitarianism is about reducing suffering, promoting dignity and adhering strictly to a set of principles that separate us from the political agenda of parties to the conflict, we cannot call much in Gaza truly ‘humanitarian’.

“The de facto blockade on humanitarian cargo means we have around 50 trucks stalled at the Egyptian border among more than 2,000 waiting to bring in medicine, tents, water tanks, sanitary pads and the myriad other basics of which people are being actively deprived. The fuel arriving in Gaza this week is about one-eighth of the absolute minimum humanitarian requirement, barely enough to keep a few health services ticking along; completely inadequate to pump or desalinate water, run communications systems and fuel trucks.

“It is incorrect to say that humanitarian assistance in Gaza is ‘suspended’, more accurate to say that it is being systematically paralysed by restrictions imposed by parties to the conflict and toyed with using inadequate workarounds designed by their allies.

“I understand many people around the world are now so exhausted and bruised by the seeming intractability of this situation that they choose to no longer read news about Gaza. People in Gaza need them to keep reading and listening. They need journalists to continue reporting on it. Civilians in Gaza have not given up hope of a ceasefire but achieving it depends very much on the concerted engagement of member states and the citizens pushing them towards it.”

Latest updates from Gaza:

Close to a million Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza this month following Israel’s expansion of operations in Rafah and calls for people residing in certain areas to ‘evacuate’. More than 800,000 have been displaced from Rafah since Israel announced operations there earlier this month. A further 100,000 have been displaced due to hostilities in northern Gaza as well, according to the UN.
Those being told by Israel to evacuate have received no assurances of safety, proper accommodation or return once hostilities end for those forced to relocate. The absence of these fundamental guarantees of safety and return, as required by international humanitarian law, qualifies Israel’s relocation directives as forcible transfer, amounting to a serious violation of international law.
The ‘limited’ offensive does not change much in terms of the reality on the ground. The attacks have already displaced people within and outside evacuation zones as people anticipate the operation expanding and fear there will be nowhere to go. There is panic and fear everywhere.
Displacement and hyperinflation have increased since Israel’s Rafah operation announcement: NRC’s teams report massive levels of displacement; people are mainly heading to al-Mawasi, a 14-kilometre-long sandy area by the coast, without adequate shelter, with many sleeping in makeshift shelters directly on the sand.  
People have also returned to Khan Younis, where there are staggering levels of damage to homes and infrastructure as well as risks from unexploded ordnances. There are no tents left for people, as the Rafah crossing continues to be closed due to Israel’s operations. 
There is extremely low liquidity, people have no access to cash to buy food or water or pay for transportation to flee.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Norwegian Refugee Council.

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