Less than 100,000 Remain in Rafah, says UN

According to a recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), less than 100,000 people remain in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, representing a mass exodus of the population from the city, a former safe zone.

Mass Re-Displacement

Earlier in the Israel-Gaza War, Israel had established the southern Gaza city of Rafah as a safe zone. As it carried out operations in northern and central Gaza, more and more civilians were driven south, fleeing bombardments and violence. At its peak, Rafah became host to approximately 1.4 million people, far above the pre-war population of 275,000.

Furthermore, the city was of vital importance due to the Rafah crossing, a border crossing between Egypt and Gaza that had become the primary entry point of aid into Gaza.

However, as Israel established a level of control over most of the remainder of Gaza, Israel claimed that Hamas’ last battalions were situated within Rafah, along with many of the remaining hostages. Due to this, Israel stated they would be launching an offensive there, despite warnings and condemnations from many foreign nations and organizations against such an attack.

Israel’s offensive upon Rafah began on May 7th, after they had ordered evacuations just 15 hours prior. Their initial operation notably seized control of the Rafah crossing, greatly interrupting aid. With the evacuations ordered, and bombings occurring within the city of Rafah, tens of thousands of people evacuated the city within days to a new “humanitarian zone” that Israel had established in Khan Younis, an area that has suffered extensively from Israeli bombings throughout the war, as well as from an Israeli ground campaign.


A map published by the IDF on May 6th, one day prior to the IDF beginning operations in Rafah, detailing zones to evacuate from, and where to evacuate to. The evacuation zone has since expanded (Photo from the IDF).

One month on, and Israel’s operation within Rafah is continuing, with now more than one million people having fled the city.

Further within OCHA’s report was an update on certain aspects of the situation within Gaza, notably regarding aid as well as the threat of disease.

OCHA states that the closure of the Rafah Crossing has complicated aid delivery into Gaza significantly. Beyond this, however, insecurity, active combat, and just a general “lack of law and order” further complicate efforts.

In order to mitigate this issue, OCHA stated the UN is in conversation with Israeli authorities and local communities in order to attempt to achieve safe travel for aid convoys, and prevent their potential takeover.

OCHA’s report also details warnings from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that diseases could soon become rampant amongst Palestinian populations. Increasing heat, mixed with hunger, lack of safe water, lack of suitable healthcare, and massive amounts of waste have left many populations vulnerable to disease. While this has been a problem for several months now, the situation is likely to worsen.

With the outbreak of the war, many services of course became unavailable. This breakdown of public services has resulted in immense amounts of waste building up throughout the Gaza Strip, as people form makeshift landfills that lie in proximity to populated areas.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.

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