Displaced Palestinians leave Khan Younis

Displaced Palestinians leave an area in eastern Khan Younis after the Israeli army issued a new evacuation order for parts of the city and Rafah on July 1, 2024.

(Photo: Bashar Taleb/AFP via Getty Images)

Oxfam Condemns Israel for Pushing Gazans Into a 'Death Trap'

"The areas Israel has defined as 'humanitarian' and 'safe' are, in reality, the polar opposite."

The global humanitarian group Oxfam condemned the Israeli military on Thursday for attempting to force hundreds of thousands of Gaza civilians out of the eastern part of Khan Younis and into overcrowded parts of the besieged territory with no guarantee of safety or humanitarian assistance.

"Pushing hundreds of thousands more people into what is essentially a death trap, devoid of any facilities, is barbaric and a breach of International Humanitarian Law," said Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam's Middle East director. "Yet again, we are seeing vast numbers of people being forced to flee under Israeli military orders, with no heed for their safety or dignity."

"The areas Israel has defined as 'humanitarian' and 'safe' are, in reality, the polar opposite, leaving families with the horrific choice between staying in an active combat zone or moving somewhere that is already desperately overcrowded, dangerous, and unfit for human existence," Khalil added.

Oxfam said its staff members who are sheltering in the supposed safe zones to which Israel has directed Gazans reported "medieval conditions," with people "camping in the streets" amid "rapidly spreading disease."

"None of the declared safe routes in Gaza are actually safe," the group said. "Israel's military has also systematically attacked civilians and aid workers, including in those clearly marked 'safe zones' and 'evacuation routes.' Israel has repeatedly failed to comply with international law, which compels it to take all possible measures to ensure satisfactory conditions of shelter, hygiene, health, safety, and nutrition, and that family members are not separated."

Oxfam's statement came days after the U.S.-armed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued fresh evacuation orders for Khan Younis, a city to which many Gazans fled after Israeli forces began their full-scale assault on Rafah in May.

The IDF instructed people to move to al-Mawasi, a tiny coastal area that Israeli forces have previously attacked. The Financial Timesrecently described al-Mawasi as a "fetid, thirsty, and disease-filled refuge of tens of thousands of Palestinians."

Hours after issuing the orders, the IDF killed at least nine people—including three children and two women—in an airstrike on a home in Khan Younis.

The United Nations estimates that nine out of 10 people in Gaza have been internally displaced at least once since Israel began its latest assault on the enclave following a deadly Hamas-led attack in October. Some Gazans have been displaced as many as 10 times, according to the U.N.

The Washington Postreported Wednesday that while the European Hospital in Khan Younis is now "completely empty" following the IDF's evacuation order, "there are signs that many of the thousands who fled fearing the new Israeli incursion" in the city "are trickling back after being unable to find new shelter in the crowded parts of the Gaza Strip still accessible to them."

"For many in Khan Younis, this week's evacuation order was only the latest in a long string of forced displacements," the Post added. "Though the United Nations said up to a quarter-million Palestinians were affected by the order, some have already returned to Khan Younis, saying there is nowhere left in Gaza for them to go."

Oxfam's Khalil said Thursday that "the human cost of the military offensive in Gaza is unacceptable" and implored "all parties to push for an immediate and lasting cease-fire in order to end the bloodshed and suffering."

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