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EXPLAINER: Why is 'All eyes on Rafah' being shared and what does it mean?

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published May 30, 2024 10:03 pm Updated May 30, 2024 10:07 pm

If you've been scrolling on social media in the past few days, then chances are you may have encountered the phrase "All eyes on Rafah" once or twice on your feed.

The phrase comes from an AI-generated image that has been shared by many users and celebrities from both the local and international scene, including Nadine Lustre, Daniel Padilla, Bella Hadid, Nicholas Hoult, and more.

The picture, which has since garnered more than 46 million shares via Instagram's "Add Yours" feature, depicts countless tent camps for displaced Palestinians that are packed closely together on a desert landscape. In the middle of it all is "All eyes on Rafah" shown in big, capital letters.

Nadine Lustre / Instagram
Daniel Padilla / Instagram

What it means

The word "Rafah" pertains to the Palestinian city in the southern Gaza Strip that serves as the capital of the Rafah Governorate of the State of Palestine.

The country is currently in a military and political conflict with Israel since 1948. The war started on Oct. 7 last year, when Hamas fighters launched an attack on Israel in the Gaza Strip because of the centuries-long conflict between the two countries over Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

As of May 13, 2024, the United Nations has reported a death toll of more than 35,000 in Gaza, which includes 7,797 children, 4,959 women and 1,924 elderly with confirmed identities.

Due to the war, Palestinians have made the city of Rafah their refuge because it is designated as a "humanitarian safe zone" by Israel itself. These areas are meant to shelter civilians who do not participate in the conflict and protect them from the effects of war.

However, the supposed safe zone has recently been the subject of intense bombing by Israeli troops. According to TIME magazine, at least 45 Palestinians have perished due to fires set by the military strikes on Rafah, causing others to "dig through charred remains hoping to rescue survivors."

How does the image help?

Through the "All eyes on Rafah" campaign on Instagram, internet users are able to raise awareness of the issue as well as show support for the city. The slogan's message aims to tell Israel that everyone is watching them so they cannot commit any human rights violations.

Sarah Jackson, an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told TIME that activists have decided to use Instagram as their way of carrying their protests because of the "visual aspect of the app."

"One of the really important things that we have to acknowledge is that a lot of Palestinian journalists have been using Instagram to share from the ground what has been happening," she said.

"We know that a lot of those journalists have been directly targeted and censored because of that, but this has been a platform that has been popular with them," she added.

But as some users on X (formerly Twitter) have raised, sharing the AI-generated graphic isn't enough as real images and videos better show the serious situation in Rafah.

After the attacks on Rafah, Israel's military stated that "contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) did not strike in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi," according to Reuters.