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Israel’s planned Rafah offensive faces rising global opposition

Global opposition is mounting to Israel’s call for a “massive operation” in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1 million people have fled in search of refuge as Israel continues its bombardment of the Strip.

“Deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Saturday in a social media statement, adding that the priority should be an immediate pause “to get aid in and hostages out” before work toward a permanent cease-fire.

In a statement the same day, Saudi Arabia said an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting was needed to “prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian disaster” in Rafah.

Young Israelis block aid to Gaza while IDF soldiers stand and watch

E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf and Germany’s Foreign Ministry all warned that Israel’s threatened action in Rafah would be catastrophic for those sheltering in the border city who have nowhere to go.

On Friday, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the country’s military is devising plans to remove civilians from Rafah and destroy Hamas battalions in the area. Biden administration officials have said they oppose any Israeli operation in Rafah under the current circumstances, and President Biden on Thursday said Israel’s military campaign in Gaza was “over the top” — his sharpest rebuke yet.

Aid groups say a ground operation in Rafah will drastically worsen the desperate humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave. Amnesty International has warned that if Israel’s removal order is enacted, it “may amount to the crime of forcible transfer.”

“Not only will more civilians die but access to essential services like food distribution, health clinics, and mental health support would be brought to a standstill, exacerbating the inhumane conditions for over a million people,” Chessa Latifi, the deputy director of emergency preparedness and response for Project Hope, said in a statement.

Here’s what else to know

Israel targeted a senior Hamas figure deep inside Lebanese territory in a strike on Saturday, according to an Israeli security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation. The target, Hamas recruiter Basel Saleh, survived the attack but at least two others were killed, the official said.

The Israeli military said it had uncovered a tunnel used by Hamas that passes beneath the main Gaza City headquarters of UNRWA. The head of the aid group, Philippe Lazzarini, said in a statement that Israel had not formally notified the agency about the discovery and that UNRWA was not aware of any tunnel infrastructure under the compound, which was evacuated on Oct. 12. The organization has been in crisis since Israel’s accusation that about a dozen of its employees played a role in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks.

One in every 100 people in Gaza was killed in the first 100 days of the war, a rate higher than any other armed conflict in the 21st century, according to a U.N. commission. “The ongoing war stands out as unprecedented in the scale of death, destruction, and suffering, with repercussions that will echo for generations to come,” said the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

The body of Hind Rajab, the 6-year-old missing for 12 days since losing touch with rescue workers after her family car was fired on in Gaza, has been found, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said Saturday. The ambulance dispatched to reach her was also shelled and the two paramedics inside were killed. Hind, the sole survivor of the attack in Gaza City, reached emergency dispatchers by phone on Jan. 29 and begged for hours to be rescued.

At least 28,064 people have been killed and 67,611 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack.




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