Israel Gaza: UN warns attack on Rafah will lead to 'massacre'

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Israel Gaza: UN warns attack on Rafah will lead to 'massacre'
  • By Ido Wok & Jacqueline Howard
  • BBC News

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Rafah's population grew from 250,000 to 1.5 million as Palestinians fled to the southern city of the territory.

A top UN official has warned that an Israeli attack on Gaza's southern town of Rafah could lead to “massacre”.

Palestinians in Gaza have already been subjected to “an attack unparalleled in its intensity, brutality and scope,” said humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths.

He said the consequences of the invasion of Rafah were “disastrous”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to defeat Hamas gunmen who are said to be holed up in the city.

In an unusually strongly worded statement, Mr Griffiths said more than a million people were “crammed into Rafah, staring death in the face”. He said citizens in the city have little access to food or medicine and “nowhere is it safe to go.”

An Israeli invasion of the city would “leave an already fragile humanitarian operation on death's door,” he added.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the BBC's Newshour program that the UN had not received any Rafah eviction plan from Israel and would not participate in forced evictions.

Stephane Dujarric said: “The United Nations will not be a party to any forced displacement.”

Rafah is a small town in the south of the Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt. Before the war it was home to about 250,000 people, but since Israel ordered the evacuation of civilians to the south its population has risen to 1.5 million.

Many are living in tents in desperate conditions and say they have nowhere to go.

Rafah has come under heavy Israeli airstrikes in recent days, with at least 67 people killed on Monday, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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WATCH: How did Rafah become home to 1.5 million Palestinians?

Mr Griffiths also said humanitarian workers working in Gaza had been “shot at, at gunpoint, assaulted and killed” as law and order broke down.

Senior officials from the United States, Israel, Egypt and Qatar met on Tuesday, amid pressure from the international community on Israel not to invade Rafah.

Mr Guterres said he hoped the talks would succeed in averting an Israeli attack on the city.

But reports from the Egyptian government information service following the meeting indicated no progress.

The meeting “confirmed the serious risk of an escalation of operations in Rafah in southern Gaza and warned of the serious consequences of such action”, but made no announcement on progress towards peace.

US President Joe Biden has warned Israel that civilians must be protected. UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron has told Israel to “stop and think seriously” before attacking Rafah.

At least 1,200 people were killed in an attack by Hamas-led gunmen in Israel on October 7 last year.

In response to this, the Israeli army attacked the Gaza Strip. More than 28,400 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed and more than 68,000 wounded since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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Palestinians displaced to southern Rafah gather around a food distribution site

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