Menu close
May 15, 2024

Exactly 76 years on from the Nakba, Palestinians are being displaced from their homes at an extraordinary rate as Israel’s military assault on Rafah sees hundreds of thousands of people flee the city. Nakba day, commemorated each year on May 15th, marks the violent uprooting of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. In the decades since then, Palestinians have experienced repeated cycles of displacement, expulsion, and refugeehood, but today, displacement is taking place on an unprecedented scale.   
Even before October 7th, most people in Gaza were refugees, with 80% of the population made up of people who were expelled from or fled their homes during the Nakba, and their descendants, according to Human Rights Watch. As a result of the Nakba, there are more than seven million Palestinian refugees around the world across countries, including Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon – many of whom are unable to return to their homes and communities, as is their right according to the UN General Assembly Resolution 3236.    
Since October 7th, more than 75% of the 2.2 million population has been displaced from their homes, with most people forced to flee multiple times amid incredibly dangerous conditions with no hope of finding anywhere safe to live.   
Today, a new wave of mass displacement is taking place in the strip after the Israeli military issued evacuation orders for parts of Rafah, which is home to more than a million people. An estimated 450,000 people have already fled the city, according to UNRWA, yet there is nowhere safe for them to go, nor anywhere with the space, resources, or infrastructure to accommodate them.   
Zeinat, a 30-year-old mother of three — including a newborn who was born a few days before October 7 — fled Rafah with her family after receiving flyers telling them to evacuate. She told ActionAid:

“I came to Deir [Al-Balah] on the basis that there would be land where we could stay. But whenever we go to a place, we find that people have already reserved [the land]. My husband arrived to the beach to look [for somewhere to stay], but there is no place left. ‘There are so many displaced people. As I said to my brother: People’s experiences today are as if it was the Day of Judgement. It’s as if you are in a market, or at a demonstration, the [numbers of] people are abnormal.  
We were in a tent in the heat, and with insects. I found a big insect crawling on [my son] at night… When I saw my son’s appearance like this, I became upset and started crying. Life is hard on us, and as mothers, we are tired. The bathrooms are shared. If a disease comes to the camp, all the children become infected. If someone coughs, all the children start coughing. Diapers and milk are not available.” 

Hiba, a 38-year-old mother from Beit Hanoun, had been sheltering in Rafah at a camp right on the border with Eqypt before she fled to Deir Al-Balah. In a video message, she described her terrifying journey out of the city:

“Yesterday, our area was bombed. Pamphlets were distributed, and even the Egyptian side withdrew their soldiers. They also told us to leave the area as it is becoming dangerous. As we fled, the bombing commenced, targeting a mosque situated close by. The whole area was destroyed, and people were killed. The remnants of people were scattered; we were fortunate to flee when we did…  
“We were scared during our bus ride here. It was constant bombardment as we moved, even the mosque in the market was bombed. Can you imagine how many people were there? It felt like doomsday with people fleeing in fear and corpses scattered everywhere. They attacked the mosque and it felt like we were next. We were praying for our lives the whole way here. It was so scary.” 

Yousef also fled from Rafah to Deir Al-Balah via Khan Younis in a difficult journey alongside his disabled mother. In a video message, he told ActionAid:

“The journey was torture; every car you ask to take you to Khan Younis charges 700/800 shekels [$187.50/213.75] or 1000 shekels [$267.50]. We came by an auto rickshaw for 500 shekels [$133.75] because my mother is paralyzed. We wanted to build a tent and we lacked a tarpaulin because it was expensive… The tarpaulin costs 250 shekels [$66.25] and the wood… every piece costs 60 shekels [$16.25] and we cannot afford this, I haven’t made a tent yet, I’m waiting. This is our life…There is not even a blanket. The situation is very bad. We have [suffered] a lot.  

In the West Bank, too, the number of Palestinians displaced from their homes has surged since October 7. Around 4,000 Palestinians in total were displaced in 2023 — the highest figure ever recorded in a single year, according to UNOCHA — for reasons including Israeli settler violence, access restrictions, and demolitions by the Israeli forces.  
Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said:

“Almost half a million people have fled Rafah in little over a week, arriving in the so-called humanitarian zones only to find there is no space for them and no access to basic necessities. With areas so overcrowded and under-resourced, diseases will spread, and the already dire humanitarian situation will worsen considerably. Palestinians are being treated like pieces on a chessboard, with the repeated displacements robbing them of any little stability and certainty they may have. Enough. The invasion of Rafah must be halted so that no more people are forced to flee. Gaza needs a permanent ceasefire now — it’s beyond time to put an end to the killing and provide people with the humanitarian relief they desperately need.” 


For media requests, please email or call 202-731-9593.

Spokespeople are available:

  • Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA
  • Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine

About ActionAid   

ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.   

Demand a ceasefire now!

The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated: every single day that passes without a permanent ceasefire further deepens this stain on humanity’s collective conscience. The violence must stop, hostages must be freed, innocent captives must be released, and humanitarian aid must flow freely. It is critical that the U.S. takes decisive action to address the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza and upholds its obligations, bound by international law, to protect civilians in times of conflict. Your advocacy and attention to ongoing violence in Gaza is critical.