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Scenes from a displacement camp in Rafah, southern Gaza. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

 The United Nations Relief Chief says humanitarian aid alone is not enough, not when the needs are so massive.

The UN Relief Chief, Martin Griffiths, has warned of a “public and mental health disaster” in the making in Rafah, where the population “has increased five-fold” as displaced Palestinians seek refuge from Israel’s ongoing attack on the Gaza Strip. 

In a statement, Griffiths said “more than half of Gaza’s population is now crammed in Rafah, a town of originally 250,000 people right on Egypt’s doorstep.” 

Describing their living conditions as “abysmal”, Griffiths said families are crammed in shelters and sleeping in the open.

They lack the necessities to survive, “stalked by hunger, disease and death”, he added. 

“A public – and mental – health disaster is in the making,” the UN Chief warned, adding that “Humanitarian aid alone is not enough, not when the needs are so massive, insecurity so pervasive and access constraints so persistent.”

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently announced Rafah, in the south, as the army’s next target, claiming that it is the last remaining stronghold of the Palestinian Resistance group Hamas.

Under international humanitarian law, Griffiths cautioned, “indiscriminate bombing of densely populated areas and depriving civilians of the essentials to survive may amount to war crimes.”

He said that “As the war in Gaza encroaches further into Rafah, I am extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of families which have endured the unthinkable in search of safety.”

He said the situation “is a wildfire that threatens to consume the West Bank, Lebanon and the wider region.”

“This war must end,” he stressed.

Possible Large Scale Loss of Life

The UN Humanitarian Office on Tuesday stressed that “everything possible” must be done to avoid intensified hostilities in Rafah. It warned that such intensification “could lead to large scale loss of civilian lives, and we must do everything possible within our power to avoid that.” 

Palestinian civilians fled to Rafah following intense bombardment across the Strip and invading Israeli forces in nearby Khan Yunis.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 27,840 Palestinians have been killed, and 67,317 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 8,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip. 

Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all of the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

(The Palestine Chronicle)