Attack on Rafah ‘safe zone’ is abhorrent

May 29, 2024
A view of a makeshift camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 18, 2024. US officials have again raised concerns with their Israeli counterparts about Israel's plans for military operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The White House said representatives of Israel's prime minister had agreed

The Israeli military has repeatedly bombed a designated civilian ‘safe zone’ in Rafah, injuring and mutilating many people and causing a rising number of deaths. Medical response capacity, after many months of targeted attacks on healthcare in Gaza, is severely limited; there is one functioning hospital in Rafah. Injured survivors of the attack may only receive the most rudimentary care, and may suffer greatly – now, and for the rest of their lives.

We, an organisation of healthcare workers, deplore this attack and the ongoing bombing of Rafah.

The attack comes in the immediate aftermath of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order that Israel immediately end military operations in Rafah. And while the Israeli government has called this attack “a tragic mistake” it is entirely consistent with the pattern of Israel’s disregard for legal norms and its egregious misuse of humanitarian measures.

People in Gaza have been systematically and forcibly displaced at a mass scale since October 2023, repeatedly ‘evacuated’ through ‘safe routes’ into ‘humanitarian zones’ where – rather than being protected, as is required under international law – they have been subjected to attack. Imprecise and incomplete information about humanitarian and conflict zones is given to civilians, and hospitals and UN installations – where shelter should rightly be found – have been regularly attacked.

This latest, horrific bombardment of a camp of displaced people seeking safety cannot stand.

Health workers in Australia and around the world have consistently called, since October 2023, for urgent action to protect life and uphold international law in Gaza. The Australian government, amongst others, has failed to act, and by failing to act has helped create the conditions that have enabled this latest atrocity. Too many people with the power and obligation to act have chosen instead to protect their own positions, quibble over slogans and symbols, opportunistically create and exploit divisions, and promote a culture of impunity.

Health workers and others in civil society will continue to speak out for an end to the genocide of the people of Gaza, on whom new acts of cruelty are unleashed day by day, month by month. We will continue to demand accountability from our educational and other institutions whose partnerships help legitimise the weapons trade and the role it plays in enabling the destruction of Gaza and her people.

And we continue to be deeply ashamed and appalled at the silence from our leaders.

We stand in solidarity with our health worker colleagues in Gaza. We call on our own government to respect and uphold the law, to defend the independence of the world’s courts, and to condemn and withhold all support from parties that violate court orders, international laws, human rights, and moral standards. We despair when this appears so hard to do.

 

Republished from Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia), May 28, 2024

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