US President Joe Biden has expressed his concern over the Israeli offensive in Rafah, stating that it should not proceed without a credible plan to ensure the safety of over a million Palestinians taking refuge there. He emphasized the vulnerability of the displaced individuals in the southern Gazan city and their need for protection.
A Palestinian doctor in Rafah informed the BBC about the fear prevalent among the residents. UN human rights chief, Volker Türk, warned that any assault would be terrifying and could result in numerous civilian deaths.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intention to expand the ground operation in Rafah to defeat Hamas gunmen hiding in the city. Rafah has been subjected to intense Israeli air strikes recently, resulting in several casualties.
The city, located on the border with Egypt, is now home to more than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million population, up from 250,000 before the Israel-Hamas conflict began in October. Many of these displaced individuals are living in makeshift shelters or tents under poor conditions with limited access to safe drinking water and food.
On Sunday, Israel’s military reported the rescue of two Israeli-Argentine hostages during a raid in Rafah.
After his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Washington on Monday, President Biden reiterated his call for the protection of civilians in Rafah. He stated his opposition to any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.
The White House has previously stated that it would not support significant Israeli operations in Rafah without proper consideration for the refugees there.
Several countries and international organizations have cautioned Israel against proceeding with its planned offensive. UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron urged Israel to “stop and think seriously” before taking further action in Rafah.
EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Israel’s allies to halt weapon supplies as too many people were being killed in Gaza. Saudi Arabia also warned of serious repercussions if Rafah was stormed.
Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, warned of potential tens of thousands of casualties and stated that any operation would jeopardize talks about a possible release of Israeli hostages held in the territory.
Rafah, located on the border with Egypt, serves as the only open point of entry for humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip were launched following the killing of at least 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7 by Hamas-led gunmen, who also took 253 people hostage. While some hostages were later released, Israel reports that 134 are still missing.
On Monday, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported that 164 people had been killed and 200 injured in Gaza over the last day. The ministry states that since October 7, 28,340 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 68,000 wounded in the Strip.