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Save the Children warns of deadly consequences for children following new relocation orders for families in Rafah

Time has run out to protect children in Rafah with the looming ground assault forcing hundreds of thousands to flee and impeding aid efforts in Gaza’s ‘last refuge’, Save the Children said.
07 May 2024

On Monday 6 May Israeli forces issued relocation orders demanding civilians in eastern Rafah to flee to the Israeli-designated so called ‘humanitarian zone’ in Al-Mawasi, which is reportedly simultaneously being enlarged. At the same time, the orders urge civilians not to move to Gaza City and Wadi Gaza area, leaving people with no options.

The orders follow a night of intense bombardment in Rafah, killing at least 22 people including eight children. Also, attacks on the Kerem Shalom crossing reportedly killed 3 people. There has been no coordination between Israeli authorities and aid agencies via formal humanitarian coordination structures prior to the reported expansion of the so-called ‘humanitarian zone' in Al-Mawasi.

Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International said:

“We hoped this day would never come. For weeks we have been warning there is no feasible evacuation plan to lawfully displace and protect civilians. For weeks, we have been warning of the devastating consequences this will have for children and our ability to assist them in an already straight-jacketed response. For weeks, we have been calling for preventive action. Instead, the international community has looked away. They cannot look away now.”

“The announced incursion will not only risk the lives of over 600,000 children but will at best disrupt and at worst cause the collapse of the humanitarian aid response currently struggling to keep Gaza’s population alive. The aid response is concentrated in Rafah, the only crossing permitted for aid agencies like Save the Children. We now see the coordination system established there being at risk of disruption – the warehouses, the vehicles, the offices, the staff accommodation. There is nowhere safe in Gaza, and, under current restrictions, there is nowhere people can access the basics needed for them to survive. Forcibly displacing people from Rafah while further disrupting the aid response will likely seal the fate of many children.”

“We had already run out of words to describe how catastrophic the situation is in Rafah - but this next chapter will take it to indescribable new levels. More than half of Gaza’s population have fled to Rafah and are left with nowhere safe to go. Many are injured, or simply too old, ill or weak to flee again. Families are desperately trying to keep their children from starving, with malnutrition already claiming lives. The entire population in Gaza is experiencing extreme hunger and we know that the imminent incursion will impact children’s access to food, water and medical care at the time they need it most. Denial of humanitarian access is a grave violation against children, starvation must never be used as a weapon of war.”

“We call on all States to act now to protect civilians and prevent atrocity crimes in Rafah. The Government of Israel must abide by the prohibition of forcible transfer and deportation of civilians under international humanitarian law and provide civilians with essential necessities for survival. Now more than ever we need an immediate, definitive ceasefire, implemented by warring parties. There is so much more that can and must be done to save children’s lives.”

Save the Children has been providing essential services and support to Palestinian children since 1953. Save the Children has put all possible measures in place to support its staff, keep them safe, and keep supporting children and families across the Gaza Strip. However, these options are limited by the conduct of hostilities - nowhere is safe in Gaza, including for our staff and partners.


MEDIA CONTACT: Mala Darmadi on 0425562113 or

Notes to Editors:

[1] To abide by the absolute prohibition of forcible transfer and deportation of civilians under international humanitarian law, Israel is obliged to take “all possible measures” to provide evacuated civilians with essential necessities for survival and guarantees of a safe and dignified return once hostilities end. Such measures include ensuring adequate safety and protection, shelter, water, sanitation, healthcare, and nutrition. As of today, no such place inside Gaza exists.

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