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Full-scale Israel military operation in Rafah would be 'nail in coffin' of Gaza aid, warns UN chief

February 26, 2024 at 2:54 pm

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on November 6, 2023 [Fatih Aktaş/Anadolu Agency]

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, warned today that a full-scale Israeli military operation in Rafah would deliver a death blow to aid initiatives in Gaza, where humanitarian assistance remains “completely insufficient”.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Guterres emphasised that Rafah, located in the southern part of Gaza and housing over 1.4 million Palestinians in makeshift settlements, serves as “the core of the humanitarian aid operation” in the Palestinian Territory.

“An all-out Israeli offensive on the city would not only be terrifying for more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there; it would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programmes,” he said.

Moreover, he lamented that, despite his urgent calls for the UN Security Council to take all measures to “end the bloodshed in Gaza and prevent escalation”, it had failed to act.

He further noted that the UN Security Council often found itself deadlocked and, therefore, “unable to act on the most significant peace and security issues of our time.”

“The Council’s lack of unity on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and on Israel’s military operations in Gaza following the horrific terror attacks by Hamas on 7 October, has severely – perhaps fatally – undermined its authority,” he said.

“The Council needs serious reform to its composition and working methods,” he added.

It comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaffirmation yesterday of his plans for a ground invasion in Rafah, emphasising a pursuit of “total victory” over Hamas.

According to The Times of Israel, he also claimed that once a ground invasion happens, victory would be just “weeks away”, and that a potential ceasefire, being discussed in Doha, would only delay the operation.

Guterres added, “I repeat my call for a humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since the 7 October Hamas attack, killing at least

29,313 Palestinians and injuring more than 69,000 others, with mass destruction and shortages of necessities, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85 per cent of the Territory’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

READ: Israeli War Cabinet to approve ‘operational plans’ on Rafah next week: Netanyahu