UK 'deeply concerned' at threatened Rafah attack

Germany warned of a 'humanitarian catastrophe' if the offensive is launched

Mourners grieve the death of Palestinians in Israeli strikes in Rafah. Reuters
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The UK is “deeply concerned” as Israel appears to be planning a military operation in Rafah, a city crowded with Palestinians already forced to flee from fighting elsewhere in Gaza, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Saturday.

The UAE, Spain, Germany and Jordan have all also expressed worries that Israel's plan is a crisis-in-waiting.

Rafah is one of the only regions not yet targeted by the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza and is providing refuge to more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million population.

It is the last remaining stronghold for Hamas in Gaza after more than four months of conflict triggered by the deadly October 7 attack on Israel.

“Deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah – over half of Gaza's population are sheltering in the area,” Lord Cameron wrote on the X social media platform.

“The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire.”

The UAE, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed deep concern at the humanitarian repercussions of a military operation in Rafah.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned “another bloodbath in Gaza cannot be allowed”, in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered the military to come up with a plan to expel people from Rafah.

Rafah is one of the few remaining places in Gaza that has not been heavily bombed. The city had a prewar population of about 280,000 but now hosts another roughly 1.4 million people who fled fighting elsewhere in the territory, according to the UN.

Germany warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” if the plan went ahead.

Foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock said: “The suffering in Rafah is unfathomable. In an extremely confined space, 1.3 million people are seeking shelter from the fighting.

“A large-scale [Israeli military] offensive in Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe in the making. The people of Gaza cannot vanish into thin air.”

After destroying Hamas strongholds across much of the rest of the Gaza Strip, Israel now wants to move on Rafah, where it says battalions of militants remain and operate a network of smuggling tunnels bringing weapons and supplies in from neighbouring Egypt.

Updated: February 10, 2024, 11:06 PM