Image by Celia Read for Creating Socialism

The ground assault on Rafah is guaranteed to cause massive civilian casualties — and the western powers that support Israel will be as guilty as Netanyahu. Israel has ordered the evacuation of 100,000 people from the eastern area of Rafah that borders on Israel to the Al Mawasi “humanitarian zone” north of Rafah. Al Mawasi is already crammed with refugees after Israel destroyed the neighbouring city of Khan Younis. It is not a place of safety. Lack of food, water, sanitation and medical aid are turning it into a death camp, even without the relentless Israeli air attacks.

Rafah has been the target for Israeli air strikes since October, when Israel was simultaneously ordering the evacuation of Northern Gaza into this allegedly safe area. In April, a single strike killed 15 children, their mothers, and grandmothers. They are killing civilians to terrorise them into leaving, and it is working. The road north out of Rafah is once more thronged with refugees, who in recent months flooded in from the north. A city of 275,000 is now home to 1.5 million Palestinians, and soon there will be nowhere for them to go. Eastern Rafah is the location for the Rafah Crossing, the only way out of Gaza into Egypt. When that is occupied by Israel there will be no way out of Gaza.

Human rights organisations and aid charities are crying out for the West to prevent this latest catastrophe.

“We hoped this day would never come,” said Inger Ashing, CEO of the charity, Save the Children, warning that an incursion [into Rafah] would not only risk the lives of more than 600,000 children, but would also severely affect the humanitarian aid response for Gaza.

James Elder, UNICEF spokesperson, says a military offensive on Rafah will be “horrific”. “As mind-boggling as this is, it seems to be happening,” he told Al Jazeera, warning that it will be “catastrophe upon catastrophe”.

Western governments are calling on Israel not to invade Rafah, but they are doing nothing to make it stop. Biden said that an assault on Rafah would be “a mistake”, while signing off on a further $17 billion package of military aid to fuel the genocide. Macron has spoken out against the assault on Rafah while reiterating that his government’s priority is the safety of the hostages, saying nothing about the safety of the Palestinians.

Here in the UK, you cannot accuse the government of hypocrisy: they are saying nothing while continuing to back Israel. The Labour opposition is little better — David Lammy tweeted: “An Israeli offensive in Rafah would be catastrophic. It must not go ahead. We need an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of hostages, and immediate unimpeded aid to Gaza.” We all remember Labour blocking ceasefire motions in the House of Commons and refusing to condemn Israel’s war crimes or call for sanctions and an arms embargo.

In 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc was hailed as a triumph for Western liberal values. It was a hollow victory, as hollow as the hearts of Western leaders who mouth platitudinous words of concern while doing nothing, or even worse, actively condoning and providing material aid to Israel’s genocide. We have nothing but contempt for their cowardice and complicity.

We should also take pride in the international movement for Peace and Justice for Palestine, The student protests are beginning to pay off with some universities announcing their intention to divest of Israeli investments. Yesterday, Oxford and Cambridge Universities began their own peace camps for Gaza with similar demands. The worldwide protests continue to attract millions of people, including hundreds of thousands in the UK. The limited successes of pro-Palestinian candidates in the recent council elections reinforce the hope that change is coming. Self-serving media moguls, political leaders, and bureaucrats would do well to remember Trotsky’s words: “The vengeance of history is more powerful than the vengeance of the most powerful general secretary.”

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