Photo Source: © Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo Source: © Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Atrocity Alert No. 394: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, South Sudan and Central African Republic

8 May 2024

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.


On 7 May Israeli forces entered southern Rafah governorate, taking control of the essential border crossing there and blocking passage for people and life-saving humanitarian aid to Gaza. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Gaza is “choked off” since Israel closed the two main aid crossings into the southern Gaza Strip – Rafah and Kerem Shalom on 5 May – as part of its military operations. Israel’s obstruction of the entry and provision of life-saving aid likely amounts to the war crime of intentional starvation of civilians as a weapon of war.

Numerous UN agencies and government officials around the world have warned for weeks that large-scale operations in Rafah would have catastrophic consequences for populations beyond the already unbearable levels of suffering. Despite this, Israel began intensely bombing several areas in Rafah on Monday night, including civilian infrastructure and areas marked as safe. A day prior to these operations, the Israeli military ordered more than 100,000 Palestinians sheltering in eastern Rafah to evacuate to Al-Mawasi – a so-called “humanitarian area” already sheltering 400,000 displaced people. OCHA Spokesperson Jens Laerke said the evacuation route to Al-Mawasi is “littered with unexploded ordnance, massive bombs lying in the street.” Under international law people must have adequate time to prepare for an evacuation and have a safe route to a safe area with access to aid.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk stressed, “Forcibly relocating hundreds of thousands from Rafah to areas which have already been flattened and where there is little shelter and virtually no access to humanitarian assistance necessary for their survival is inconceivable. It will only expose them to more danger and misery.” An estimated 1.4 million people are sheltering in Rafah, many of whom have been displaced several times following successive evacuation orders issued by the Israeli military for other areas of Gaza. Airstrikes and missiles regularly hit so-called safe zones where displaced Palestinians have been directed to seek shelter. The mass displacement of Palestinians in Gaza likely amounts to the war crime and crime against humanity of forcible transfer.

Seven months since Israel’s relentless bombardment and siege began in response to Hamas’ horrific 7 October attacks, at least 34,735 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 78,108 injured, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. Calling on Israel to cease further escalation in Rafah, UN Secretary-General António Guterres insisted, “Countless more civilian casualties. Countless more families forced to flee yet again – with nowhere safe to go. Because there is no safe place in Gaza.”

Israel should immediately lift the siege of Gaza and ensure safe and unimpeded access for the delivery of humanitarian aid. A permanent ceasefire must be urgently reached and monitored by an independent, international body. All member states must refrain from aiding and abetting the commission of atrocity crimes and suspend the provision of any arms to Israel, while the United States and other allies to Israel with influence should also take immediate action to stop any further offensive on Rafah. States parties to the Genocide Convention should ensure Israel’s compliance with the legally binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice.


On 26 April armed youth – reportedly from the Murle community in South Sudan’s Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) – attacked cattle keepers across the border in Kapoeta East County, Eastern Equatoria. According to local news sources, at least 32 people were killed, 22 injured and 90 women and children abducted. The armed youth also attacked and stole approximately 22,000 head of livestock, posing significant consequences for local communities because of their dependence on cattle for their livelihoods and survival. GPAA authorities acknowledged that armed youth from their jurisdiction were involved in the attack and claimed they are working toward the return of the abducted people and stolen livestock.

In attempts to de-escalate the situation, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) deployed additional peacekeepers and is conducting urgent patrols in the affected areas. UNMISS also sent an additional 76 peacekeepers to reinforce the Tambura temporary base in Western Equatoria, as tensions remain high between different ethnic communities following a series of earlier incidents, including the killing of civilians.

Intensified fighting over resources and increasing inter-communal clashes will likely affect South Sudan’s first-ever national elections – slated to be held by December 2024 – according to Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for UN Peace Operations. Significant con­cerns also remain about the country’s election preparedness, as the necessary standards for genuine and peaceful elections are not yet met. In March Under-Secretary-General Lacroix told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that if elections are not managed carefully, there is “potential for violence with disastrous consequences for an already fragile country and the wider region.” Based on the UN’s assessment on election preparedness, on 29 April the UNSC mandated UNMISS to provide electoral assistance, including support to voter education programs for the prevention and response to election violence.

Political instability and armed conflict have been pervasive in South Sudan for most of its nearly 13 years of independence. Delays in implementing the 2018 peace agreement and ongoing political rivalries have exacerbated tensions within South Sudan’s ethnically diverse population.

The Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in South Sudan must make every effort to stop the fighting, address the root causes of inter-communal violence and ensure the safety and security of all populations. To allow for free, fair and credible elections by December, the TGoNU must urgently establish an inclusive electoral system, advance the permanent constitution-making process and allocate the necessary resources to operationalize the various institutions for a democratic transition.


On 30 April the Special Criminal Court (SCC) of the Central African Republic (CAR) publicly issued an arrest warrant against former President François Bozizé. The SCC charged Bozizé with multiple counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, rape and sexual violence and enforced disappearance, among others. The crimes were allegedly committed between February 2009 and March 2013 by his presidential guard and other security forces at a civilian prison and the infamous Bossembelé military training center. The judges concluded there was “serious and consistent evidence against [Bozizé], likely to incur his criminal liability, in his capacity as hierarchical superior and military leader.”

Decades of political instability and widespread impunity have fueled cycles of armed conflicts and atrocities in CAR. Bozizé seized power in a coup in 2003 and was overthrown a decade later by the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominantly Christian anti-balaka militias and the collapse of state institutions. Anti-balaka and ex-Séléka forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity between 2013-2015. In 2019 Bozizé returned to CAR and became a leader of a loose alliance of armed groups known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, which launched an offensive on the capital in December 2020, before he went back into hiding. The SCC’s press release confirms that Bozizé is currently living in Guinea Bissau.

Despite several mechanisms mandated to deal with international crimes perpetrated in CAR, accountability remains limited with few alleged perpetrators having been arrested, prosecuted or tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The SCC was established in 2015 as a hybrid judicial mechanism to try international crimes committed during conflicts in the country since 2003. The SCC opened its first session in October 2018, but has faced operational difficulties and jurisdictional barriers, including with arrest and detention of suspects. According to Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Samira Daoud, the SCC has issued at least 25 arrest warrants, and the suspects remain at large.

Christine Caldera, CAR expert at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said, “The issuance of an arrest warrant against François Bozizé – such a high-profile suspect – is a significant step toward combating impunity and sends a strong message to perpetrators that justice will eventually catch up, regardless of the political or military status of the individual.” All suspects subject to SCC arrest warrants should be arrested and brought to the Court without delay, including Bozizé. States must fulfill their international obligations and ensure that the most serious crimes do not go unpunished. The international community should provide increased support to ensure the SCC has sufficient resources to effectively carry out its mandate.

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date on R2P news and alerts

Follow us on social media


Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5203
New York, NY 10016-4309, USA

Phone: +1 212-817-1929 |
R2P Resources & Statements