UN: Israeli ground operation in Rafah would be ‘tragedy beyond words’

UN: Israeli ground operation in Rafah would be ‘tragedy beyond words’
UN: Israeli ground operation in Rafah would be ‘tragedy beyond words’

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A Palestinian woman walks past the rubble of buildings destroyed in previous Israeli bombardments in Rafah. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, May 1 — A ground operation by Israeli troops in the southern Gaza city of Rafah would be a “tragedy beyond words”, the UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement yesterday.

“The simplest truth is that a ground operation in Rafah will be nothing short of a tragedy beyond words. No humanitarian plan can counter that,” Griffiths said, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to launch an offensive on Rafah, which has become a refuge to some 1.5 million Palestinians.

With Hamas weighing a truce plan proposed in Cairo talks with the US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators, Netanyahu vowed to launch the assault on Rafah “with or without a deal”.

Washington has joined calls on Israel from other countries and humanitarian organisations to spare the city for fear an army incursion would lead to massive civilian casualties.

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“The world has been appealing to the Israeli authorities for weeks to spare Rafah, but a ground operation there is on the immediate horizon,” said Griffiths.

“For the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled to Gaza’s southernmost point to escape disease, famine, mass graves and direct fighting, a ground invasion would spell even more trauma and death.

“For agencies struggling to provide humanitarian aid despite the active hostilities, impassable roads, unexploded ordnance, fuel shortages, delays at checkpoints, and Israeli restrictions, a ground invasion would strike a disastrous blow.

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“We are in a race to stave off hunger and death, and we are losing.”

The war in Gaza started after Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,535 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Hamas also took some 250 hostages on October 7. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 believed to be dead. — AFP

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