The prospect of a “real” Israeli army offensive in Rafah, in the far south of the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are refugees, is “terrifying,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
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“Given the carnage that has taken place in Gaza so far, we can only imagine what will happen in Rafah,” Volker Türk said in a statement.
“The possibility of a full military invasion of Rafah – where some 1.5 million Palestinians are crowded on the Egyptian border with no way out – is frightening,” he said, emphasizing “the prospect that extremely large numbers of civilians, again primarily children, will be there.” and women will likely be killed and injured.”
The war was sparked on October 7 by an unprecedented attack by Hamas commandos who crossed into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.
According to the Hamas Ministry of Health, the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip claimed 28,340 lives, the vast majority of them civilians.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed concern about the impact of an offensive in Rafah on the humanitarian aid on which the Palestinians depend.
“This invasion of Rafah could also mean an end to the meager humanitarian aid arriving and being distributed, which would have enormous consequences for Gaza as a whole, including hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation and death from famine in the north,” said he.
“The world cannot allow this to happen,” he added, calling for an “immediate ceasefire.”
Mr. Türk also calls for the release of “all remaining hostages.”
Israel estimates that around 130 hostages are still being held in Gaza, 29 of whom are believed to have died, out of around 250 people kidnapped in Israel on October 7. A week-long ceasefire in November allowed the release of 105 hostages and 240 Palestinians held by Israel.