Save the people of Rafah and all of Gaza

12 Feb, 2024 | Gaza, Israel, Vrede en oorlog

In my recent article entitled Cherish the people of Gaza, I wrote about the importance of a permanent ceasefire, the release of hostages, clean drinking water, food, humanitarian and psychological aid for the people of Gaza, reconstruction, and the need for a lasting peace solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

I also wrote about a Gaza family with whom Peace SOS is in contact. Before the war started, they were providing vegetables to people in need in Gaza. We are concerned because the mother is expecting her second child and is likely to need a Caesarean section.

Meanwhile, however, I received an even more alarming message. The family fears for their lives now that an Israeli invasion of Rafah is imminent. The area is home to 1.4 million refugees; they had been advised by Israel to flee, while the border with Egypt is closed. Friday’s Dutch national newspaper de Volkskrant reports on its website that UN children’s organisation UNICEF is calling on Israel and Hamas to refrain from military escalation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. According to UNICEF director Catherine Russell, more than six hundred thousand children are currently in the city with their families. Clearly, an invasion of Rafah will further exacerbate the humanitarian nightmare.

My contact informed me that a commercial company, Ya Hala, is trying to get people out of Gaza, and demanding the absurd amount of $5,000 per person. Of course, the vast majority of people in Gaza cannot afford this. Still, the task at hand is to rescue all the people. Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated that civilians have to be evacuated. But to where? They have recently been forced to leave northern Gaza for the south, the north having been bombed to the ground. Egypt is keeping the border crossing closed and, according to the Dutch national broadcaster NOS, does not want Rafah invaded or for all the refugees to enter Egypt. Egypt has threatened to suspend the peace treaty with Israel if Israel does enter Rafah.

According to de Volkskrant, outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories again this Monday to discuss a break in fighting between Israel and Hamas. Rutte will speak with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz. Later that day, he will speak with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. I earnestly entreat our outgoing prime minister to call for a permanent ceasefire and discuss the situation of refugees in Rafah and other places in Gaza.

What Netanyahu wants is total victory over Hamas, which is why he rejected the three-phase ceasefire plan proposed by them in response to Israel’s plan for a “humanitarian combat pause”. I hope outgoing Prime Minister Rutte pleads with Netanyahu to continue down the path of diplomacy and produce creative solutions that do not lead to more death and destruction. Let’s cherish life and help each other! Perhaps Israel can be persuaded to agree to another proposal acceptable to both sides.

In any case, there should be a permanent ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and the release of the hostages. Since Netanyahu does not want a victory for Hamas, Prime Minister Rutte could argue for a transitional government in Gaza and new elections under UN supervision, for example. Hamas has been in power since 2006.

Also, I hope Prime Minister Rutte will indicate that he will stop supplying Israeli with parts for F-35s and will contribute to lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This will help them ¬†and ultimately us – the most. The killing of people – and certainly of children – must stop, that is an end in itself. Additionally, Hamas cannot be defeated by means of violence. Killing people evokes feelings of revenge and leads to further escalation of the war. As Gandhi said: ‘An eye for an eye’ will only make the whole world blind.

Hopefully soon there will be: A World Where All Children Can Play. May world leaders do their best to achieve that.

 

May-May Meijer, Chair Peace SOS

 

 

Image: Annette Jones, image retrieved via Pixabay.

This article was published in Dutch Red de mensen in Rafah en in heel Gaza on the Joop BNNVARA website on 11 February 2024