International community fails to protect women and children in Gaza

We are extremely worried about Israel’s plan for a ground offensive in Rafah. If launched, it would kill thousands of civilians and worsen an already unimaginable humanitarian disaster. Israel has continuously encouraged Palestinians to go south and seek refuge in Rafah, on the boarder to Egypt. Around 1.5 million people are now seeking shelter in the city, increasing its population six times. The conditions are extremely dire, there is hardly any shelter, very limited access to food and clean water.  People are squeezed in a corner with a military operation looming. The question is, where should they go now?

Already in December, 70% of all homes in Gaza was destroyed making it the most devastating urban warfare in modern history. According to the UN, 85% of Gaza’s population is internally displaced. Women’s activist that we are in contact with report that there is a growing fear among Palestinians to be driven of their land entirely and never be able to return. To permanently displace Palestinians within and from Gaza would constitute a serious breach of international law and an atrocity crime.

Israel’s plans to invade Rafah are announced not even a month after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered provisional measures, requiring Israel to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, and to enable humanitarian assistant. Since then, Israel’s military operations have continued to kill civilians and the humanitarian situation has worsened, disregarding the ICJ court order. Following Israeli allegations against UNRWA, nine countries have suspend their funding, which threatens the ongoing humanitarian work across the region and specially the Gaza Strip.

Violations of human rights continue, affecting mostly Palestinian women and children.  UN experts expressed serious concerns about human rights violations against Palestinian women in Gaza and the West Bank, violations that our partners also have raised. This includes arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, including women human rights defenders, journalists and humanitarian workers since October 7th. Many are reported to have been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including sexual assault and being stripped naked and raped. The UN experts are chocked by reports of targeting and extrajudicial killings of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge. These violations are serious breaches of international law—a prompt independent investigation is needed in order for perpetrators to be held accountable.

The Kvinna till Kvinna’s partners in Gaza have reported for months about the ongoing and worsening nightmare, how women are forced to give birth under inhuman conditions, how children and family members are killed, and the fear of being trapped under rubbles after Israeli bombardments. Despite this they continue to do everything they can to provide help to people in need.

This deliberate dehumanisation and destruction of an entire population must stop. States have a legal and moral responsibility to protect civilians, prevent war crimes and violations of international law. Blocking resolutions or continue to provide arms and ammunition enables the atrocities to continue. The international community must come together and do everything in its power to forge an immediate and permanent ceasefire, ensure the release of hostages and unlawfully detained Palestinians as well as ensuring full humanitarian access.

—The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

Previous statements