Article from Amira Hass/”If the Israeli army invades Rafah, what will be of more than 1.5 million Palestinians, who take shelter there?

Juli 2014. Het Israëlische leger bombardeert de Gazastrook.




ICJ South Africa v. Israel (Genocide Convention)  CC-BY-SA-4.0


Dear Readers

On the request of drs J Wijenberg, former Dutch ambassador and

an important activist of the Palestinian Case, hereby I publish

the following article of another great advocate for Palestinian Rights:


The article is titled:



The article was published in the Israeli newspaper The Haaretz


And see for more information about drs J Wijenberg 


Read further o Readers








10 FEBRUARY 2024


Since Yahya Sinwar, his close aides and Hamas militants have never been

found in Gaza City and then not in Khan Yunis, the Israeli army is

considering expanding its ground operation into the southern Gaza city of


The army is doing so because it assumes that Sinwar and his aids

are hiding in the tunnels underneath this southern region of the Gaza Strip,

presumably holding on to the Israeli hostages who are still alive.

Most of the Gaza Strip residents, some 1.4 million people, are concentrated

in Rafah. 

Tens of thousands are still fleeing into the city from Khan Yunis,

where the fighting continues. The thought that Israel will invade Rafah and

that fighting will take place between and near civilians terrifies the city's

residents and the internally displaced persons. 

The terror they feel is

augmented by the conclusion that nobody can prevent Israel from carrying

out its intention – not even the ICJ ruling that orders Israel to take all

measures to avoid acts of genocide.

Military correspondents in Israel report and assume that the army intends to

order residents of Rafah to move to a safe area. Since the war started, the

army has been waving around this evacuation or

der as evidence that it is

acting in order to prevent any harm to ”uninvolved civilians”

This safe zone, however, which was bombarded and still is bombarded by

Israel, is gradually shrinking. 

The only safe zone that truly remains, and

which the IDF is now designating for the masses of people in Rafah, is Al-

Mawasi – a southern Gaza coastal area of approximately 16 square

kilometers (about 6 square miles).

It’s still unclear by what verbal measures the IDF and its legal experts

intend to reconcile this squeezing of so many civilians with the orders

given by the ICJ.


”The humanitarian zone designated by the army is around the size of Ben-

Gurion International Airport (about 6.3 square miles)” concluded Haaretz

journalists Yarden Michaeli and Avi Scharf in their report earlier this week.

The report, titled "Gazans Fled Their Homes. 

They Have Nowhere to

Return to”, revealed the vast devastation across the Gaza Strip as captured

in Satellite images.

The comparison with Ben-Gurion International Airport invites one to imagine

a density beyond anything imaginable, but Israeli TV commentators don't go

much further beyond the deep insight that the ground invasion of Rafah will

indeed, ”won’t be that simple.”

Although it’s difficult, we must imagine what awaits the Palestinians in

Rafah if the army’;s plan is carried out. 

We must do so not so much as of humanist and moral considerations, which after October 7 aren’t that relevant to the majority of the Israeli-Jewish public, but because of the military, humanitarian, and -eventually- legal and political entanglementsthat are surely expected if we go down that road.
The compression

Even if ”only” about a million Palestinians will flee for the third and fourth

time into Al-Mawasi – an area which is already full of displaced Gazans –

the density will be about 62,500 people per square kilometer (about

157,000 people per square mile).

This will happen in an open area with no skyscrapers to house the

refugees, that has no running water, no privacy, no means of living, no

hospitals or medical clinics, no solar panels to charge phones, and all while

aid organizations will have to cross through or near battle zones in order to

distribute the small amounts of food that do enter the Gaza Strip.

It seems that the only position in which this narrow area could

accommodate everyone would be if they're all standing or kneeling.

Perhaps it’ll be necessary to form special committees that will determine

sleeping arrangements in shifts: a few thousand would lie down while the

rest continue to stand awake.

The buzzing of the drones above and below,

the cries of babies born during the war and whose mothers have no milk or

not enough of it – these will be the unnerving soundtrack.

From what we saw during the IDF’s ground raids and the battles in Gaza 

City and Khan Yunis, it’s clear, that the ground operation in Rafah if it


eventually unfolds, will last many weeks. Does Israel believe that the ICJ

will consider the compression of hundreds of thousands or a million

Palestinians on a small piece of land a proper ”measure”; that prevents


About 270 thousand Palestinians lived in the Rafah district before the war.

The one-and-a-half million who are currently staying there suffer from

hunger and malnutrition; they suffer from thirst, cold, diseases and

spreading infections, from lice in their hair and skin rash; they suffer from

physical and mental exhaustion and a chronic lack of sleep.

They crowd in

schools, hospitals and mosques, in tent neighborhoods that have sprung up

in and around Rafah, and in apartments that house dozens of displaced


Tens of thousands of them are wounded, including those whose limbs were

amputated due to the army's attacks or surgeries that followed. They all

have relatives and friends – children, babies and elderly parents – who

have been killed in the past four months.

The houses of most of them were destroyed or badly damaged. All their

possessions are lost. 

Their money has run out due to the high and

exorbitant food prices. 

Many escaped death only by chance, and witnessed

the dreadful sights of dead bodies. They don’;t mourn the dead yet because

the trauma continues. 

Along with displays of support and solidarity, disputes

and fights also occur. Some lose their memory and sanity from all the


As it has done in other areas in the strip, to maintain the element of

surprise, the IDF will issue a warning about two hours before a ground

invasion into Rafah. This will give the residents a time window of a few

hours that day to evacuate the city.

Imagine this convoy of refugees and the mass panic of people fleeing

toward Al-Mawasi in the west. Think of the elders, the sick, the disabled and

the wounded who will be ”lucky” to be transported in donkey carts or

makeshift wheelbarrows and in cars that run on cooking oil.

All the others – both sick and healthy – will have to leave on foot. They’;ll

probably have to leave behind the little that they’ve managed to collect and

take with them in previous displacements, like blankets and plastic sheets

for shelter, warm clothes, some food and basic items such as small


This forced escape march will probably go through the ruins of some of the

buildings that Israel bombed not long ago, or the craters created on the


road due to the attacks. The whole convoy will then stand still until a detour

is found. Someone is bound to trip; a cartwheel will get stuck in the mud.

And all of them – hungry and thirsty, frightened by the imminent attack or

the expected tank shelling – will continue going forward. Children will cry

and get lost. People will feel bad. 

Medical teams will struggle to reach

whoever needs care.

Only 4 kilometers (about 2.4 miles) separate Rafah from Al-Mawasi, but it’;ll

require several hours to cross. 

The people marching will be cut off from any

communication, if only because of the packed convoy and the

overcrowding. They’;ll fight over the area where they wish to set up a tent.

They’ll fight over who gets to be closest to a building or a water well. 


faint due to thirst and hunger.

The following image will repeat itself several times over the next few days:

A march of starving and frightened Palestinians starts fleeing in panic each

time the IDF announces another area whose residents are supposed to

evacuate, while the tanks and infantry troops advance toward them. 


shelling and ground troops will get closer to the hospitals that are still

functioning. Tanks will surround them, and all the patients and medical

teams will be required to evacuate to the crowded Al-Mawasi area.

The ground operation

It’;s hard to know how many of them will decide not to leave. 

As we learned

from what happened in the northern Gaza districts and Khan Yunis, a

significant number of residents prefer to stay in an area that is destined for

a ground operation. 

Among them will be tens of thousands of displaced,

sick and seriously wounded Gazans who are hospitalized, pregnant women

and others who will decide to stay in their own homes and the homes of

their relatives or in schools turned into shelters. 

The little information they

will get from the concentration area of Al-Mawasi is enough to discourage

them from joining.

IDF soldiers and commanders, however, interpret the evacuation order

differently: anyone who remains in an area designated for ground invasion

isn’t considered an innocent civilian; they aren’;t considered ”uninvolved”

Anyone who stays in their homes and goes out to fetch water from a city

facility that is still operating or from some private well, medical teams called

to treat a patient, a pregnant woman walking to a nearby hospital to give

birth – all of them, as we saw during the war and in past military campaigns,

are criminalized in the eyes of the soldiers. 

Shooting and killing them

follows the IDF’s rules of engagement.


According to the army, such shootings are carried out in accordance with

international law because these individuals were warned that they must


Even when soldiers break into houses during the fighting, Gazans,

mainly men, are at risk of death from gunfire. 

A soldier shooting someone

because they felt threatened or followed an order – it doesn’t matter. It

happened in Gaza City, and it might happen in Rafah.

Just as the aid teams aren’t authorized or are unable to reach the northern

Gaza Strip to distribute food, they won’t be able to distribute it in the fighting

areas in Rafah. 

The little food that the residents managed to save will

gradually run out.

Those who remain in their homes will be forced to choose the lesser of two

evils: either they go out and risk Israeli fire or starve at home. 

Most of them

already suffer from a severe lack of nutrients. In many families, adults are

giving up food so that their children can be fed. There’s a real danger that

many will starve to death while in their home as the fighting rages outside.

The bombings

Since the war started, the army bombarded residential buildings, open

areas and passenger cars in every location it had defined as ”safe” (that its

residents weren’;t required to leave). It doesn’t matter if the attacks target

Hamas facilities, the group’s officials or other members who were staying

with their families or have come out of hiding to visit them – civilians are

almost always killed.

The bombings didn’t stop in Rafah either. Overnight into Thursday, two

houses were bombed in the western Rafah neighborhood of Tel al-Sultan.

According to Palestinian sources, 14 people were killed, including five


The sources also said that a mother and daughter were killed in an Israeli

attack on a house in northern Rafah on February 7 and that a journalist was

killed together with his mother and sister in western Rafah the day before.

Also on February 6, the sources added, six Palestinian police officers were

killed in an Israeli attack while they were securing an aid truck in eastern


These attacks indicate that the so-called collateral damage calculations

approved by IDF legal experts and the State Prosecutor’s Office are

extremely permissive. The number of uninvolved Palestinians that it is

”permitted”; to kill in return for hitting an army’s target is higher than in any

previous war.


People in Rafah are afraid that the IDF will apply these permissive criteria

also in Al-Mawasi, and attack there as well if a target is in the area, among

the hundreds of thousands who take shelter. This is how an announced

safe haven will become a death trap for hundreds of thousands.

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