Netanyahu promises ‘safe passage’ to Palestinians ahead of Rafah operation


The Israeli premier, who contends “victory” over Hamas cannot be achieved without clearing battalions in Rafah, directed his military on Friday to prepare for the operation. His announcement set off a chorus of concern from world leaders and aid groups.

“The people in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on social media platform X, adding that an Israeli offensive on Rafah would be a “humanitarian catastrophe in the making.”

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry warned Saturday of “very serious repercussions of storming and targeting” Rafah and called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting, while UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he is “deeply concerned” about the prospective offensive.

“The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out,” he wrote.

SHARPENING US REBUKE

The war in Gaza was sparked by Palestinian militant group Hamas’s unprecedented Oct 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a massive military offensive in Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 28,064 people, mostly women and children.

Militants also seized 250 hostages, 132 of whom are still in Gaza, although 29 are presumed dead, Israel has said.

Netanyahu announced the plan for a ground operation in Rafah only days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel seeking a ceasefire and hostage-prisoner exchange.

Netanyahu has rejected the proposed truce after what he called “bizarre demands” from Hamas.

But Israel’s plans for Rafah have drawn sharp rebuke from main ally and military backer Washington, with the State Department warning that if not properly planned, such an operation risks “disaster”.

In unusually sharp criticism, US President Joe Biden on Thursday called Israel’s retaliatory campaign “over the top”.



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