Palestinians mourn after identifying the bodies of relatives killed in overnight Israeli bombardment on the southern Gaza Strip, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, on Saturday, February 10, 2024. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
Feb. 11 (UPI) — Qatar, Oman, and agencies of the United Nations have joined Saudi Arabia in condemning Israel’s plans to storm the city of Rafah in Gaza. Even the United States, Israel’s closest ally, has raised concerns.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday had called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting as Israel started its fresh offensive, allegedly hitting Hamas targets in the city in occupied Palestine overnight. Palestinians have been forced to flee south after Israel leveled cities in northern Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to target alleged Hamas forces in Rafah, causing world leaders to fear a further escalation in the humanitarian crisis caused by U.S.-backed Israel’s war in Gaza.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has supported Israel since the decades-long violence escalated in the wake of the October 7 attack by Hamas, the militia considered to be a terrorist organization by Israel. But she strongly condemned Israel’s latest plans.
A Palestinian man carries the body of a child who was killed in Israeli strikes in Rafah, Gaza
“We have been clear that under the current circumstances in Rafah, a military operation now in that area cannot proceed,” she said in an interview with NPR.
“And that would dramatically exacerbate the humanitarian emergency that we’re all seeking to alleviate right now. Israel has an obligation to ensure that civilians, that their civilian population is safe and that they’re secure and that they have access to humanitarian aid and to basic services.”
She added that she hears concerns about Israel’s war “every single day” at the U.N. while justifying the little action the Security Council has taken so far on the issue as an attempt not to hinder negotiations surrounding the release of hostages taken by Hamas and detainees of Israel.
The Foreign Ministry in Qatar, which has led many of the hostage, aid and peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, warned Saturday that Israel’s plans would cause a humanitarian catastrophe a city that has become a last refuge for hundreds of thousands fleeing Israeli violence.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on the U.N. Security Council to take urgent action to prevent the Israeli occupation forces from invading Rafah and committing genocide, and to provide full protection to civilians under international law and international humanitarian law,” it said.
“The Ministry affirms Qatar’s categorical rejection of attempts to forcibly displace the Palestinian people from Gaza Strip. The Ministry also reiterates Qatar’s firm position regarding the justice of the Palestinian cause, the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and the establishment of an independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Oman in a statement warned Israel of “grave repercussions” if Israeli forces continue their “indiscriminate aggression” in Gaza.
And Egypt, meanwhile, has warned that it could suspend its 1979 peace treaty with Israel as it shores up its border with Rafah to prevent refugees from spilling into the country. Middle Eastern countries have said that a refugee crisis would undermine Palestine’s sovereignty as some critics have called it a forced displacement amounting to genocide.
“Rafah is one of the most densely populated places on earth, teeming with children & families, some already displaced many times by war in Gaza,” Catherine Russell, the head of UNICEF, said on social media.
“Some 1.3M civilians are pushed into a corner, living on streets or shelters. They must be protected. They have nowhere safe to go.”