Israeli assault on Rafah would be unbearable escalation, UN chief warns

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to attack the southern Gaza city 'with or without a deal' with Hamas

Israeli assault on Rafah would be unbearable escalation, UN chief warns

Israeli assault on Rafah would be unbearable escalation, UN chief warns
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The UN Secretary General warned on Tuesday that a military assault on Rafah would be an “unbearable escalation”, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to proceed with an attack on the city.

Speaking in New York, Antonio Guterres said an operation in Rafah would result in significant civilian casualties and displacement.

He appealed to “all those with influence over Israel to do everything in their power to prevent it” to avoid what would be an “absolutely devastating tragedy”.

“All members of the Security Council, and many other governments, have clearly expressed their opposition to such an operation,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu said that with or without a deal, Israel intended to pursue an operation to destroy the remaining Hamas combat formations in Rafah, where more than 1.2 million Palestinians are now seeking shelter, having fled the Israeli bombardment.

“The idea that we will halt the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there – with or without a deal, in order to achieve total victory.”

His comments came as Hamas is considering a new ceasefire proposal, which is being discussed in Cairo with mediators from the US, Egypt and Qatar, sparking some hope for an end to the conflict.

The Palestinian militant group said it was considering a plan for a 40-day ceasefire and the exchange of scores of hostages for larger numbers of Palestinian detainees.

The UN chief urged both Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement “for the sake of the people of Gaza, for the sake of the hostages and their families in Israel, and for the sake of the region and the wider world”.

Without that, he feared that the war, with all its consequences both in Gaza and across the region, would worsen exponentially.

Mr Guterres also called on Israeli authorities to allow and enable safe, rapid and unimpeded access for aid and humanitarian workers, including the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) throughout Gaza.

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Updated: May 01, 2024, 7:36 AM