Humanitarian Crisis Swells With Ground Campaign Underway

In early February, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered an evacuation of the city Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza strip that has become a place of refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians amid the intense siege following the October 7 attacks by Hamas. Rafah, previously home to around 250,000 citizens, has seen a population growth to about 1.4 million people in the past four months (NBC).  

The ordered evacuation of Rafah came as a shock, with the Israeli defense ground assault plan already underway. There is nowhere for citizens to go beyond Rafah, and a ground campaign guarantees tremendous citizen casualties and more displacement than what has already been seen. Following the International Court of Justice ruling, ordering the IDF to limit the number of civilian deaths, Israeli defenses do not appear to be following the order strictly. A Doctors Without Borders group located in Kahn Younis have reported an IDF shell tank hitting their marked and known shelter, killing two people within, and giving no evacuation warning to those sheltered (NBC).  

President Biden (he/him, D) has yet to be briefed on the situation in Rafah but remains on his stance that civilian lives need to be protected (Reuters). Biden, previously voicing strong support for the Israeli campaign, has not directly criticized the actions of Netanyahu publicly but has stated he believes the operations to be “over the top” and warned of the U.S. having waning support for the strict military campaign (CNN). However, the U.S. has recently come under fire after vetoing a UN ceasefire resolution. The resolution was introduced by Algeria in attempt to display broad support for a ceasefire in Gaza. Following the U.S. veto, representatives of China have made comments that the veto “sends the wrong message,” (NBC).  

The situation in Rafah, already unmanageable, has begun to deteriorate further, with airstrike bombardment killing and wounding civilians. Previous to the order from Netanyahu, the city was already experiencing regular bombardment but has seen an uptick in airstrikes in the past few weeks. Concern for the humanitarian crisis has only grown as civilians prepare for inescapable destruction. Netanyahu stands by his decision to carry out the ground campaign, stating the impossibility of achieving the war goal of eliminating Hamas while leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah (NBC).

As of February 25, 2024, a U.S. airman died following what he claimed to be a protest against Israel’s war in Gaza. The man, identified to be 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell, took to the quarters of the Israeli Embassy and live-streamed his self-immolation. The act was done as he chanted “free Palestine” until he was engulfed by flames (NPR). Bushnell has had a lasting impact on his community; in San Antonio, he volunteered with the San Antonio Care Collective, offering support to the unhoused population in the surrounding area and befriending many of those in the encampments (NPR).

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