Aid Groups in Rafah Say Israel’s Advance Is Pushing Them Out

Israel’s offensive in the southern city of Rafah has strained medical and humanitarian services to the breaking point, aid workers say, with only one hospital still functioning and several aid operations forced to decamp to other parts of the Gaza Strip.

The health care crisis in the city has been compounded by the closure of emergency clinics and other services amid continued clashes and strikes that have killed dozens of civilians.

On Sunday, a strike that Israel said was aimed at a Hamas compound set ablaze a camp for the displaced in Rafah, killing 45 people, according to the Gazan health ministry. Another strike on Tuesday in Al-Mawasi, on the outskirts of Rafah, killed 21 people and injured dozens, the ministry said.

Among the aid operations that have shuttered this week are a field hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent, a clinic supported by Doctors Without Borders and kitchens run by World Central Kitchen.

“As Israeli attacks intensify on Rafah, the unpredictable trickle of aid into Gaza has created a mirage of improved access, while the humanitarian response is in reality on the verge of collapse,” 19 aid groups said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Some of the operations that were forced to move were in Al-Mawasi, where many civilians and aid workers went because Israel designated part of the area as a humanitarian safe zone. Israel’s military said after the strike on Tuesday that it had not fired on that zone. Videos verified by The New York Times indicate that the strike hit near, but not inside, the zone.

Aid workers have noted how difficult it is for people in Gaza to determine whether they are in a designated safe area, as many have limited access to mobile phones or the internet.

“Civilians are being massacred. They are being pushed into areas they were told would be safe only to be subjected to relentless airstrikes and heavy fighting,” Chris Lockyear, the secretary general of Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for Gaza’s health ministry, called for safe routes for evacuees, more border crossings for aid and more field hospitals in Rafah.

“There is no medical capacity to deal with the successive massacres in Rafah and in northern Gaza,” he said.

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