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Civilians in Gaza must not be forced to move

The Israeli government’s order for 1.1 million people to leave northern Gaza is a shocking development that will put more lives at risk and will have devastating humanitarian consequences, Islamic Relief says. People in Gaza must not be forced to relocate and the order should be rescinded.

Civilians in Gaza are terrified about what is coming next and confused whether to stay put or flee, and where to go given that nowhere in Gaza is currently safe. The order to move gave no guarantees of safety or return.

As the United Nations has warned, moving so many people will be impossible without serious humanitarian cost, and people will inevitably die as a result of the evacuation. Hospitals are full of critically wounded civilians, including many babies and infant children, and evacuating them would be life-threatening. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable and in many cases cannot evacuate without support. The UN has warned that it cannot guarantee the safety of people staying in UNRWA-designated schools.

Calling for people to leave does not absolve Israel of its obligations under international humanitarian law to refrain from harming civilians who cannot or choose not to leave.

Actions such as forcing people to leave and the total siege of Gaza – cutting off supplies of food, medicine, fuel and aid – represents collective punishment of all 2.2 million people living in Gaza, around half of whom are children, and violate protections to civilians under international humanitarian law.

Gaza is already suffering an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties and the total blockade means that there is no electricity, hospitals are running out of medicine, food supplies are running low and water systems are damaged. Forcing the entire population of Gaza, an already densely populated enclave, into just the southern half will make the humanitarian crisis even worse. There are not enough hospitals, shelters, water or other vital services for so many people.

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