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Gaza: Germany helps rescue 68 children from Rafah

Annika Sost
March 12, 2024

The German Foreign Office has helped organize the evacuation of children and staff members from an aid center in Gaza to the West Bank. The evacuation was met with disapproval from far-right politicians in Israel.

Palestinian children play at the SOS Children s Village in Rafah in 2009.
Since 2000, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children in Rafah. This picture was taken in 2009.Image: stock&people/imago

On Monday, 68 children as well as 11 staff members and their families were "temporarily evacuated" from the SOS Children's Village in Rafah to Bethlehem in the West Bank, the German Foreign Office told DW. 

SOS Children's Villages, an NGO, reached out in mid-November to Germany's Foreign Minister to request help for its village in Rafah, according to a spokesperson for the Foreign Office.

"We are relieved that our intensive efforts were finally successful yesterday and would like to thank everyone involved," the spokesperson told DW. 

More than 1 million refugees are sheltering in the southern Gazan city of Rafah. Many are living in crowded shelters and makeshift tents. The delivery of aid into Gaza has been hindered by Israeli checkpoints and the Israel's ongoing military operations in the Strip. Aid groups say food and supplies are quickly running out

Israel has pledged to launch to launch an offensive in Rafah to root out the remaining Hamas fighters based there. Countries like the US and Germany have warned of grave humanitarian consequences if a full-scale assault goes ahead. Israel has also said it is working on plans for evacuating parts of Rafah ahead of any military operation. 


UNICEF: Gaza faces 'an explosion in preventable child death'

Israel's far-right criticizes evacuation 

According to The Times of Israel newspaper, the operation had been requested by Germany, and coordinated by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the National Security Council, without explicit approval from the government's security cabinet.

The move drew criticism from Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who called the evacuation an "ethical failure," and demanded answers from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, according to the report. 

An unnamed source in the security cabinet was quoted by Israel's Channel 12 news as saying the evacuation amounted to "ridiculous and immoral behavior toward the hostages in Gaza and their families."

During the Hamas terror attacks on October 7, militants took 250 people hostage. Israel believes about 130 captives remain in Gaza, including 32 presumed dead.

Shlomo Ne'eman, the outgoing chairman of the Gush Etzion regional council in the West Bank, which provides municipal services for Israeli settlements, called for people to protest on the road that was used for the evacuation. 

With reporting by Giulia Saudelli in Berlin 

Edited by: Wesley Rahn