AFSC staff and aid distribution under threat of further displacement
PHILADELPHIA (February 8, 2024) – Israeli troops are bombing Rafah and positioned for a ground invasion. Rafah is the last place in Gaza not yet subjected to invasion; the Israeli military had declared Rafah a safe zone and Palestinians have been forced to flee there after being displaced repeatedly from their homes and other places of refuge. The city now hosts over 1.5 million displaced people, including American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) staff and their families.
Rafah is also the key entry and distribution point for humanitarian aid. Despite being displaced multiple times themselves, AFSC staff have distributed aid to more than 121,700 people in Khan Younis, Deir El-Balah, and Rafah. The invasion of Israeli forces will disrupt the lifesaving work of all the humanitarian organizations in the area.
“Almost the entire population of Gaza has been squeezed up against the border in Rafah and now has nowhere left to flee,” said Mike Merryman-Lotze, Just Peace Global Policy Director for AFSC. “This invasion comes as people in Gaza are dying from starvation, thirst, exposure, and the destruction and obstruction of access to health care. It will only cause more death and suffering. The U.S. and the international community must abide by the International Court of Justice order to prevent genocide and end this ongoing tragedy. We need an immediate cease-fire and a full arms embargo on Israel until it ends its attacks on Palestinians.”
On February 6 the Israeli government rejected a cease-fire offer by Hamas and negotiated by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar. Hamas had indicated a willingness to release Israeli hostages and stop fighting if Israel agreed to a permanent cease-fire, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other political leaders in Israel have repeatedly rejected this possibility.
“Continued pressure is needed to push for a permanent cease-fire and a long-term political solution that brings an end to all war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those of forced displacement, occupation, and apartheid. In particular the U.S. Government and the Biden Administration are directly responsible for funding and justifying these atrocities and must be held to account,” said Jennifer Bing, Director of AFSC’s Palestine Activism Program. “This invasion is a huge step in the wrong direction and will only result in massive loss of life, both through direct violence and from the consequences of further disrupting the little humanitarian aid that has managed to get across the border.”
Since late December, AFSC staff in Gaza have been serving hot meals from an open-air kitchen to displaced people living outside of shelters. They have also provided families with water, food parcels and fresh vegetables, have distributed hygiene kits and other critical supplies to women and seniors, and hosted activities for children. AFSC staff in the Middle East, the U.S., and around the world have also been advocating and protesting to call for a cease-fire and an end to occupation and apartheid.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions.