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UN fears 'possible war crimes' as Israel set to enter Rafah

February 7, 2024 at 9:52 am

Palestinians meet their water needs from mobile tanks belonging to United Nations (UN) due to the great damage to the city’s infrastructure in Israeli air strikes in Rafah, Gaza on February 03, 2023 [Abed Zagout – Anadolu Agency]

Any move by Israel to extend its full-scale invasion of Gaza into the massively overcrowded southern city of Rafah could lead to war crimes which must be prevented at all costs, the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, said yesterday.

“We, as the UN and Member States of the UN, can bear witness,” OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke told journalists in Geneva. “We can make clear what the law says: under international humanitarian law, indiscriminate bombing of densely populated areas may amount to war crimes.”

The development came as OCHA reported an “increase in strikes” in the Rafah governorate on Sunday and Monday. At the same time, thousands of Gazans continue to flood into Rafah, including many who have fled intense fighting in Khan Yunis.

The result of this exodus is that Rafah’s population has increased five-fold since war erupted in the enclave on 7 October.

“To be clear, intensified hostilities in Rafah in this situation could lead to large-scale loss of civilian lives, and we must do everything possible within our power to avoid that,” Laerke said.

The situation in Gaza is “beyond catastrophic…a nightmare” that continues to get worse, added Tommaso Della Longa from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

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