Palestinians flee with child in Rafah.

Palestinians comfort a child as they flee a bombarded district in Rafah following the resumption of Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza Strip on December 1, 2023, as fighting broke out shortly after the expiration of a seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas militants.

(Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

UN Warns of Israeli War Crimes as Rafah Invasion Looms

"To be clear, intensified hostilities in Rafah in this situation could lead to large-scale loss of civilian lives and we must do everything possible within our power to avoid that," an OCHA spokesperson said.

Any Israeli invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza could lead to "war crimes," a United Nations official warned on Tuesday.

The warning comes as Israel has signaled its intent to move on the city on the Egyptian border, where around half of Gaza's population is now seeking refuge.

"We as the U.N. and member states of the U.N. can bear witness," U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva, according toUN News. "We can make clear what the law says… under international humanitarian law, indiscriminate bombing of densely populated areas may amount to war crimes."

Rafah's population has quintupled since Israel's bombardment of Gaza began on October 7. Since then, Israel's bombing campaign and ground invasion have killed at least 27,585 people and internally displaced around 85% of Gaza's population.

Israel has repeatedly ordered civilians to move south for their safety, and thousands continue to flee to Rafah, including from intense fighting in Khan Younis. Despite this, OCHA said it had observed an "increase in strikes" in Rafah, and Israeli leaders have made statements suggesting a plan to invade Rafah.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Monday that Rafah would be the "next target" of the Israel Defense Forces, according toAl Jazeera.

"To be clear, intensified hostilities in Rafah in this situation could lead to large-scale loss of civilian lives and we must do everything possible within our power to avoid that," Laerke said.

The Israeli public broadcaster KAN said it had been informed by "political sources" that civilians would be evacuated from Rafah before any military campaign, but it is unclear where they would go.

On Monday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan, and Al-Haq issued a joint statement calling on the international community to prevent an attack on Rafah and said that such an invasion would "significantly exacerbate the ongoing genocidal acts" being carried out by the IDF in Gaza.

Join the Movement: Become Part of the Solution Today

We're optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter counts.

Your contribution supports this new media model—free, independent, and dedicated to uncovering the truth. Stand with us in the fight for social justice, human rights, and equality. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.