Humanitarian crisis in Gaza as aid groups face ‘significant disruptions’

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned that Israel’s ground incursion into the southern Gaza town of Rafah led to the closure of the vital Rafah border crossing.

One of the world’s leading humanitarian relief organizations says it is facing “significant disruptions” to its operations in Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing military offensive, exacerbating an already dire crisis for civilians trapped by the violence.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned that Israel’s ground incursion into the southern Gaza town of Rafah led to the closure of the vital Rafah border crossing and a blockade preventing aid workers and supplies from entering the besieged Palestinian territory.

“I have recently returned from Gaza, where the scale of the crisis defies imagination,” said Kiryn Lanning, the IRC’s team lead in the occupied Palestinian territories. “Facilities across southern Gaza have been repurposed into makeshift shelters overflowing into the streets. This displaced population is now facing acute shortages of necessities such as food, water, and adequate sanitation.”

Lanning’s stark assessment comes as the death toll from Israel’s two-week military campaign aimed at stopping Palestinian militant rocket fire continues climbing. Palestinian health officials say over 200 civilians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, while militants’ rockets have killed over 30 civilians in Israel.

Previous Israeli offensives against Hamas, the militant group ruling Gaza, have led to humanitarian catastrophes, with civilians trapped amid the heavy bombardments and urban combat zones. The latest round of cross-border fire erupted on May 10 following weeks of rising tensions in Jerusalem.

Nicole Seitz, a spokeswoman for the IRC’s global emergency team, said the closure of the Rafah crossing and restrictions on aid workers were “severely impacting humanitarian operations” at a time when around 58,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza.

Seitz expressed that the situation for civilians in Gaza had escalated from critical to catastrophic. He noted that entire neighbourhoods had been levelled, making it challenging to provide life-saving services to those in greatest need.

The IRC called for immediate steps to protect civilians in Gaza and ensure humanitarian access to the enclave of over 2 million Palestinians, urging all parties to adhere to their obligations under international law.

Israel’s military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the IRC’s statement. Israeli officials have accused Palestinian militants of using civilians in Gaza as human shields and operating in densely populated areas.

With no diplomatic resolution in sight, the growing displacement crisis in Gaza threatens to fuel wider regional instability unless humanitarian efforts can proceed without impediment.