‘Evacuation Orders Have Not Made Gazans Safer’ – UN Expert Slams Israel

Paula Gaviria Betancur, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons. (Photo: via United Nations website)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

United Nations expert, Paula Gaviria Betancur, says the international community “must abandon the fiction that Israel will respect the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law in its military operations.”

A UN expert has slammed Israel’s evacuation orders for the residents of Gaza, saying it has not made the situation any safer.

“Israel’s evacuation orders have not made the people of Gaza safer; on the contrary, they have been used to forcibly transfer and confine the civilian population in unlivable conditions,” said Paula Gaviria Betancur, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) on Wednesday.

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Gaviria Betancur said she was “appalled to hear that Israel intends to extend these orders to Rafah, the only semblance of refuge for nearly 70 percent of Gaza’s surviving population and the only functional entry point for humanitarian aid, should Israel’s demands in negotiations not be met by the unilaterally imposed deadline of 10 March.”

She stressed that although Rafah has already come under periodic attack by Israeli forces, “a full-scale ground assault would lead to unimaginable suffering.”

Any evacuation order imposed on Rafah under the current conditions, with the rest of Gaza lying in ruins, the UN expert explained, would be “in flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, forcing people to flee to conditions of certain death – deprived of food, water, healthcare, and shelter.”

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Total Disregard

Gaviria Betancur noted that few internal displacement crises in recent history could be characterized by such wholesale disregard for the rights of the displaced.

“IDPs in Gaza have been arbitrarily driven from their homes multiple times with no regard for their rights to life, dignity, liberty and security,” she said. 

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The Special Rapporteur explained that “it is impossible to conceive of any durable solution to their displacement, given Israel’s systematic destruction of civilian infrastructure, including homes, hospitals, schools, markets, and places of worship.”

This is in addition to “the immense psychological toll” the conflict has taken on the people of Gaza.

“Preventing arbitrary displacement, and providing protection, assistance, and durable solutions to displaced persons are neither optional nor acts of charity,” said the expert. “They are Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under international law.”

The Special Rapporteur condemned Israel’s continued efforts to obstruct and weaponise humanitarian aid, in addition to “most disturbingly” expanding its assault on humanitarian aid “to systematically target aid-seekers themselves, through attacks on civilians seeking aid.”

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“I am horrified by the depravity of killing civilians while they are at their most vulnerable and seeking basic assistance. These constitute atrocity crimes of the highest order,” she stressed.

She explained that humanitarian assistance is desperately needed to alleviate the immense suffering of the people of Gaza as well as to prevent further displacement, including potential cross-border displacement.

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ICJ’s Binding Order

One month ago, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued “a binding order on Israel to take immediate and effective measures to permit the delivery of basic services and humanitarian aid to Gaza, as part of measures required to prevent the commission of genocide,” she emphasized.

“Instead, Israel immediately launched a campaign to discredit and defund UNRWA, the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza, based on allegations for which Israel has yet to publicly provide any credible evidence,” the expert said.

She also condemned Israel for having “done little to hold Israeli citizens accountable for blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid.”

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With the attack on aid convoys and health facilities, “starvation and disease are running rampant, and claiming lives alongside Israel’s military actions.”

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 30,717 Palestinians have been killed, and 72,156 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 7,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip.

‘Not Mere Statistics’

Gaviria Betancur urged the international community to remember these victims as “Palestinian lives are not mere statistics. These are families struggling to make ends meet, loved ones torn apart, children trying to find joy amidst unimaginable trauma, people like anywhere else.”

She stated that “The international community must abandon the fiction that Israel will respect the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law in its military operations.”

“An immediate and permanent ceasefire, coupled with meaningful measures to document and ensure accountability for atrocities as well as secure the fundamental rights of Palestinians in Gaza, is the only path forward for the sake of our shared humanity,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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