Israel orders Rafa evacuations as US says it likely breached international law

Israel orders thousands more Palestinians to evacuate Rafah as it plans to expand its military attacks on Gaza despite desperate warnings from the international community.

The demand come just hours after the US said Israel may have breached international law in its use of American-supplied weapons against civilians in Gaza.

While many agree that what is happening in Palestine amounts to genocide, this slight shift from the US signals that even Israel’s staunchest ally is struggling to stomach what it’s doing in Gaza.

Israeli forces have intensified bombardment around the southern city, where over 1.5 million Palestinians had taken shelter after being driven from other areas during Israel’s onslaught.

Now, thousands more are being forced to seek refuge yet again ahead of an expected widening of Israel’s ground invasion in Rafah. 

Last week, US President Joe Biden cautioned that America would stop arms shipments if Israel pursued a major ground assault on the densely populated region. It had already paused one shipment due to concerns about an attack on Rafah.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that a big ground attack in Rafah would lead to an “epic humanitarian disaster.”

“The international community must speak with one voice for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate & unconditional release of all hostages, and a massive surge in life-saving aid,” he added on X.

Israel may have breached international law

The latest developments come after the US State Department finally released its assessment of whether Israel improperly used American-supplied weapons against Gaza civilians in violation of international law.

Given Israel’s heavy reliance on American-made weapons, it said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Israel did use them “in instances inconsistent with its IHL [international humanitarian law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.”

But the report, which had been delayed for several days, said it could not make definitive conclusions, given the lack of evidence and the lack of a US government presence on the ground in Gaza.

The new mass evacuations mean Israel is preparing to press ahead with a dramatic escalation – one that could prove catastrophic for the millions of Palestinian civilians packed into the narrow strip.

Aid agencies and other countries have warned that Gaza’s medical infrastructure is already at a breaking point and have accused Israel of not doing enough to ensure Gaza gets the food it needs.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs warns that with all the crossings into Rafah closed or unsafe, the humanitarian situation is in a “downward spiral” and that aid and fuel are needed immediately. 

In a video posted on X, the head of the organisation, Georgios Petropoulos, said: “World Food Programme (WFP) and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) will run out of food for distribution in the south” by Saturday.


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