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What are leaders saying about impending Israel offensive in Rafah?


Rafah's citizens are fearing a major offensive, while Israel vows to continue its attacks to free more hostages. /Ibraheem Abu Mustafa and IDF/Reuters
Rafah's citizens are fearing a major offensive, while Israel vows to continue its attacks to free more hostages. /Ibraheem Abu Mustafa and IDF/Reuters

Rafah's citizens are fearing a major offensive, while Israel vows to continue its attacks to free more hostages. /Ibraheem Abu Mustafa and IDF/Reuters

Israel is planning to expand its ground assault into Rafah. Following attacks by Hamas militants on Israel on October 7, Gaza's southern city has become a last refuge for over half of Gaza's 2.4 million people, who are pressed up against the Egypt border in makeshift camps facing outbreaks of hepatitis and diarrhea, and a scarcity of food and water. 

With air strikes hitting Rafah in recent days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was "within reach" of eliminating Hamas's fighting battalions "and we shouldn't stop." After two hostages were rescued on Monday in strikes that killed scores of Palestinians, Netanyahu added: "Only continued military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our hostages."

Egyptian, Israeli, U.S. and Qatari officials are expected to meet in Cairo on Tuesday to seek a truce in Gaza with civilians in Rafah waiting in fear for an Israeli assault. Voices around the world are growing louder for a ceasefire. 

Israel says it intends to evacuate civilians, although the UN humanitarian office says it has not received any Israeli plan to pursue this, adding they would not participate in any forced evacuation even if it did. Aid officials and foreign governments say there is nowhere for civilians to go, and Egypt has made clear it will not allow a refugee exodus over its border.

China, Europe, the U.S., UN... what are world leaders and aid agencies calling for?


Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief: "Everybody goes to Tel Aviv, begging 'please don't do that, protect civilians, don't kill so many'. How many is too many? What is the standard? Netanyahu doesn't listen to anyone."

On Israel's proposed evacuation, Borrell added: "They are going to evacuate? Where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people?"

China's Foreign Ministry: "China is closely watching the developments in Rafah. We oppose and condemn acts against civilians and international law. We call on Israel to stop military operations as soon as possible, do everything possible to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and prevent a more devastating humanitarian disaster in Rafah."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock: "I am especially concerned about the announcement by the Israeli government of a large ground military operation in Rafah. Of course, it is completely clear that also in Rafah, there is an unbelievably large net of the Hamas terrorist organization."

UN's human rights chief Volker Turk: "A potential full-fledged military incursion into Rafah is terrifying, given the prospect that an extremely high number of civilians, again mostly children and women, will likely be killed and injured. Not so long ago, I had flagged the unimaginable suffering faced by Palestinians in Gaza. Today, sadly, given the carnage wrought so far in Gaza it is wholly imaginable what would lie ahead in Rafah."

U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington was working on a peace that would "bring an immediate and sustained period of calm into Gaza for at least six weeks."

The White House held talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Monday. On Rafah civilians, Biden added: "They need to be protected. Many people there have been displaced - displaced multiple times, fleeing the violence to the north, and now they're packed into Rafah - exposed and vulnerable."


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British Foreign Secretary David Cameron: "We think it is impossible to see how you can fight a war amongst these people. There's nowhere for them to go. We are very concerned about the situation and we want Israel to stop and think very seriously before it takes any further action. But above all, what we want is an immediate pause in the fighting and we want that pause to lead to a ceasefire."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov: "We are ready to support any action that will lead to the release of the hostages and a ceasefire. But we believe that the actions should be constructive, aimed at a comprehensive solution of the problem within the framework of international law and previously-adopted Security Council resolutions."

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot: "It is hard to see how large-scale operations in such a densely populated area would not lead to many civilian casualties and a bigger humanitarian catastrophe. It is unjustifiable."

Juliette Touma, UN's Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA: "Where are you going to evacuate people to as no place is safe across the Gaza Strip, the north is shattered, riddled with unexploded weapons, it's pretty much unlivable. Enough is enough. Any further escalation would be absolutely apocalyptic."

Karim Khan, International Criminal Court prosecutor, said he was deeply concerned about reports of bombardment and a potential ground incursion in Rafah. 

"All wars have rules and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted so as to render them hollow or devoid of meaning. When you have a population that is 60 percent children and women by all accounts, the risks to civilians are profound. This situation is one that I give the utmost priority to."

South Africa's presidency: "(We are) gravely concerned that the unprecedented military offensive against Rafah, as announced by the State of Israel, has already led to and will result in further large-scale killing, harm and destruction. This would be in serious and irreparable breach both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court's Order of January 26."

What are leaders saying about impending Israel offensive in Rafah?

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Source(s): Reuters ,AFP
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