According to UN human rights experts, Palestinians in Gaza are facing the threat of mass ethnic cleansing as Israel has ordered half of the population to evacuate. The densely populated strip is already dealing with aerial bombardment and dwindling resources on the ground. UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese has expressed concerns about Israel’s justification for these actions, stating that “Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing” under the guise of self-defense. She also pointed out that Israel has previously carried out mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during times of war. There are fears that the current situation could be reminiscent of the 1948 Nakba and the 1967 Naksa, which resulted in the mass expulsions of over a million Palestinians from their homes and land.
Francesca Albanese emphasizes the urgency for the international community to intervene and prevent history from repeating itself. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has also issued warnings, stating that their shelters in Gaza are no longer safe and the area’s residents are running out of water. With Israel cutting off electricity to Gaza following an attack by Hamas, the humanitarian crisis in the territory has worsened. The UN has further warned that Israel’s evacuation order, which targets 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza, would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe and practically be a death sentence for those who are sick and in hospitals. The hospital system is already struggling, and several medical facilities have been targeted and bombed.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his concerns about the dangers of moving over a million people across a warzone to a place without food, water, or accommodation, especially when the entire territory is under siege. He called on the Israeli government to rescind the evacuation order. UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Paula Gaviria Betancur, has highlighted the illegality of forcible population transfers, categorizing them as a crime against humanity. She also reminded that collective punishment is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
The situation escalated when Israel ordered the population of northern Gaza to move to the south within 24 hours, followed by a ground invasion of the northern region. The entire territory remains blockaded, and the exit to Egypt has been closed due to ongoing Israeli airstrikes. Responding to Hamas’ attack, Israel has launched its most intense bombing campaign in history, resulting in the deaths of over 1,900 Palestinians and injuring over 7,600 more, according to the UN. The last week has also seen a significant displacement of over 423,000 people.
It is clear that the situation in Gaza is dire, with Palestinians facing the real possibility of ethnic cleansing and a humanitarian catastrophe. The international community must act swiftly and decisively to prevent a repeat of past atrocities and ensure the safety and well-being of the Palestinian population. Efforts should be made to address the root causes of the conflict and work towards a peaceful resolution that respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved.