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World waits as Israel sets sights on Rafah

10 May 2024

Warnings of worsening humanitarian catastrophe as aid choked off

Alamy

Palestinians leave Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, in fear of a military offensive by the Israeli forces

Palestinians leave Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, in fear of a military offensive by the Israeli forces

HEAVY shelling has been reported in Rafah, in the south of Gaza, amid warnings to Israel of the grave humanitarian consequences of a large-scale invasion of the city.

President Biden said on Wednesday that US military shipments would be stopped if Israeli troops entered the city. It had earlier been confirmed that a delivery of munitions had been paused

Rafah is currently inhabited by many of those who have fled airstrikes and fighting elsewhere in Gaza, and aid organisations warn that the consequences of being further displaced, in conjunction with disruption to the inflow of aid through the Rafah crossing, could be catastrophic.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said on Tuesday that, overnight, they had taken control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Aid organisations said that, as a result, aid was not able to cross the border.

The Rafah crossing has been one of the main supply routes for aid deliveries during the war, and several of Israel’s allies, including the US and the UK, have warned against a full-scale offensive against the city of Rafah.

On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that the UK’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrew Mitchell, had warned that such an incursion would break international humanitarian law and risk strengthening Hamas.

The secretary general of the UN, António Guterres, called for the Rafah crossing to be reopened immediately, as its closure was “especially damaging to an already dire humanitarian situation”.

Also on Tuesday, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, asked the Government “what representations they are making to the government of Israel in light of a potential new offensive by Israeli forces”.

In response, Lord Ahmad, the Foreign Office minister in the House of Lords, said that “we want an end to the fighting as soon as possible.”

He said that the continued holding of hostages was “appalling”, and that “too many civilians are also dying in Gaza.”

On the prospect of “military incursion” in Rafah, Lord Ahmad said that the Government was “deeply concerned”, and referred to “the number of civilians sheltering there and its importance for delivering aid”.

In response to a question from Dr Smith about what the Government was doing to ensure that more aid entered Gaza, Lord Ahmad said that it was “imploring” Israel to reopen the Rafah crossing.

Fears that the IDF’s move to control the crossing would be followed by a full-scale invasion of the city of Rafah have been heightened by evacuation instructions issued to some of the 2.7 million people currently in the city,

In response to further questions in the House, Lord Ahmad confirmed that the Government had “seen no credible plan as to where people would go”.

The Middle East representative for the Roman Catholic aid agency CAFOD, Elizbeth Funnell, said on Tuesday that “there is nowhere left to host the people now being displaced from Rafah, and aid workers are facing impossible choices about whether to reopen damaged shelters that aren’t safe to house people. There is no way that a ground offensive in Rafah will be anything but catastrophic for civilians.”

She called on the Government to put pressure on Israel to halt any plans for an attack.

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