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Attack on Rafah would create “colossal humanitarian catastrophe,” says UN chief

Photo: Agence France-Presse A child plays ball among tents pitched by Palestinians displaced by fighting between Israel and Hamas on Friday in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip.

France Media Agency to Rafah

Posted yesterday at 6:41 a.m. Updated yesterday at 11:44 p.m.

  • Middle East

An Israeli ground offensive on Rafah would lead to a “colossal humanitarian catastrophe”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Friday, as military operations against Hamas in the overcrowded city paralyze the entry of aid in the Gaza Strip.

Thursday, indirect talks aimed at achieving a truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement, after seven months of war, and avoiding a major offensive on Rafah, ended without an agreement in Cairo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured that Israel would fight “alone” after the threat launched for the first time by American President Joe Biden to stop certain arms deliveries to his ally in the event of an offensive on the city.

Army spokesperson Daniel Hagari assured that it had enough weapons to “accomplish its mission in Rafah.”

However, a Such an operation would lead to a “colossal humanitarian catastrophe,” Mr. Guterres warned, adding that a famine was looming in the Palestinian territory.

“We are actively engaged with all parties concerned for the resumption of the entry of vital supplies, including fuel, through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossing points,” he assured.

Early Friday, AFP correspondents reported artillery fire on Rafah, the last town in southern Gaza before the Egyptian border, where some 1.4 million Palestinians are crowded together.< /p>

According to the UN, around 110,000 people have fled since Israel called on the population in the east of the city to evacuate on Monday.

“Some 30,000 people are fleeing the city every day,” said in Geneva the head of the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for Gaza, Georgios Petropoulos, most of whom “have already had to move five or six times » since the start of the war.

This is the case of Oum Soubhi, displaced from Gaza City, in the north: “At the start of the war, we went to Rafah, then we were displaced several times in the Rafah area because of threats, strikes and the scary and terrifying situation, before coming to Nuseirat (center),” she told AFP.

Attack on Rafah would create “colossal humanitarian catastrophe,” says UN chief

Photo: Abdel Kareem Hana Associated Press Palestinians fleeing Rafah for fear of a major Israeli offensive arrive in Deir al Balah.

“Tanks everywhere”

Some took the path to Khan Younes, a ruined city near Rafah , while others wondered where to go in the crowded Palestinian territory.

“Tanks, artillery and the sound of shelling are incessant. People are afraid and want to look for a safe place,” Abdel Rahman, a displaced person, told AFP.

Witnesses also reported Friday airstrikes and fighting in Gaza City.

For months, Benjamin Netanyahu has been threatening a major offensive on Rafah to defeat the last Hamas battalions which he claims are grouped there, raising fears of a worsening of the humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory.

Attack on Rafah would create “colossal humanitarian catastrophe,” says UN chief

Photo: Agence France-Presse A plume of smoke caused by an Israeli bombardment is visible in the sky over Rafah.

Defying international warnings, the army has been carrying out incursions into eastern Rafah since Tuesday and has taken control of the border crossing with Egypt, blocking a key entry point for humanitarian aid convoys.

The army said Friday that it was continuing its “precision counterterrorism operation” in parts of eastern Rafah, and had “eliminated terrorist cells during close combat and airstrikes on the Gaza side of the border crossing.”< /p>

Despite the reopening on Wednesday of the Kerem Shalom crossing, neighboring Rafah, closed by Israel for three days after rocket attacks claimed by Hamas, the delivery of aid remains “extremely difficult,” Andrea De Domenico, head of the office of the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) in the Palestinian territories, told AFP.

The Israelis “have tanks everywhere, troops on the ground, they are bombing the area east of Rafah and they want us to go and get fuel or commodities” in these war zones, while “they know we just can't go,” he added.

If fuel is not allowed in, “the consequences will be felt almost immediately,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell warned Thursday.

“Incubators for premature babies will no longer be fed, children and families will be dehydrated or drink unsafe water, sewers will overflow spreading diseases,” she warned.

Also read

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  • Biden and Netanyahu challenge each other over the fate of Rafah
  • Aid is 'completely paralyzed' in Gaza, UN warns

Call for “flexibility”

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza carried out an unprecedented attack against Israel, which left more than 1,170 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP report based on official Israeli data. .

More than 250 people have been kidnapped and 128 remain captive in Gaza, of whom 36 are believed to have died, according to the army.

In response, Israel promised to destroy Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, and launched an offensive that has so far killed 34,904 people, according to the Islamist movement's Ministry of Health.< /p>

Egypt on Friday urged Hamas and Israel to show “flexibility,” in order to quickly reach an agreement to “end the humanitarian tragedy” in Gaza.

Attack on Rafah would create “colossal humanitarian catastrophe,” says UN chief

Photo: Agence France-Presse Thousands of Palestinians have set up their tents along the coastline in Deir el-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.

“The ball in Israel’s court”

After the departure of delegations from both camps on Thursday from Cairo , efforts by mediator countries (Egypt, Qatar, United States) “continue” with a view to a truce, according to the media Al-Qahera News, close to Egyptian intelligence.

< p>Hamas sent a message to other Palestinian factions stating that “the ball was now entirely in Israel's court.”

He gave the green light on Monday to a proposed truce in three phases of 42 days each, according to him, including an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as well as an exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, with a view to a “cease -the permanent ceasefire.”

But Israel opposes a permanent ceasefire as long as Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization as well that the United States and the European Union, will not be defeated.

The situation in Gaza is on the agenda for Friday at a special session of the General Assembly in the UN.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116