Israel is facing growing international alarm over a planned attack on Rafah, a city in southern Gaza packed with Palestinian refugees.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said “more than half of Gaza’s population has taken refuge in the area” and Dutch FM Hanke Bruins slot warned there could be “many civilian casualties”. He said that there is.
Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions” if Rafah was attacked.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers said there could be “tens of thousands” of casualties.
Israel launched an operation in the Palestinian enclave after more than 1,200 people were killed by Hamas militants in southern Israel on October 7.
Since then, more than 27,900 people have been killed in Gaza and at least 67,000 injured, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
Many Gazans have been forced to flee their homes at least once and end up in Rafah.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said: “It is impossible to achieve the objectives of the war without eliminating Hamas and leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah. The intense activity in Rafah requires civilians to be evacuated from the combat zone. It’s clear.”
Aid groups say it will be impossible to evacuate everyone from the city, which borders Egypt.
Around 1.5 million Palestinians are believed to be in Rafah seeking refuge from Israeli combat operations in the rest of the Gaza Strip. Most of them live in tents.
Prime Minister David Cameron said in a social media post that he was “deeply concerned about the possibility of a military attack in Rafah.”
“The priority must be to immediately stop fighting, secure relief and rescue hostages, then move towards a sustainable and durable ceasefire.”
Meanwhile, Ms Bruins Slott described Rafa’s situation as “very worrying”.
“Many civilians in Gaza have fled to the south. It is difficult to imagine that a large-scale military operation in such a densely populated area would not lead to high civilian casualties and a larger humanitarian catastrophe. .This is unjust,” she added.
Also on Saturday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a statement against “targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, a last resort for hundreds of thousands of civilians forced to flee by the brutal Israeli invasion.” I warned you.
The ministry also reiterated its “demand for an immediate ceasefire.”
Other developments on Saturday include:
- At least five Palestinians were killed in the Israeli airstrike in Rafah, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.
- The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says its air force has killed two Hamas operatives in a southern city.
- The Israeli Defense Forces also announced that they had discovered a tunnel shaft near a school run by the Palestine Refugee Relief Agency (UNRWA) that leads to “an underground terrorist tunnel beneath UNRWA headquarters.”
- UNRWA Director Philippe Lazzarini has denied any knowledge of Hamas tunnels near his agency’s offices, saying the building was vacated by staff several months ago.
- A six-year-old girl who went missing in Gaza City last month has been found dead along with several relatives and two emergency workers after apparently being hit by shelling from an Israeli tank.
The BBC is unable to independently verify many of the battlefield claims made during the war.