New Delhi, Feb 11: Amid escalating tensions in the Gaza Strip, Israel's proposed offensive in the city of Rafah has sparked widespread international concern, with fears of a humanitarian catastrophe mounting.
The planned operation, aimed at targeting militant groups in the densely populated area where hundreds of thousands of civilians are taking refuge, has raised alarms among global leaders and humanitarian organisations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's directive to prepare for the evacuation of 1.3 million residents from Rafah has drawn condemnation from various quarters.
The city, already overwhelmed with Palestinian refugees displaced from other parts of Gaza, faces the prospect of further devastation as military preparations intensify.
On Saturday, an Israeli official told CNN that Netanyahu wants the Rafah operation completed by the start of Ramadan on March 10
The United Nations has expressed grave apprehension about the proposed offensive, warning of dire consequences for the civilian population. Human Rights Watch has echoed these concerns, emphasizing the potential for catastrophic outcomes if a mass evacuation were to be enforced.
International leaders have joined in denouncing Israel's plans, with prominent figures such as UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot expressing deep concern over the situation. The possibility of widespread civilian casualties looms large, casting a shadow over efforts to broker a ceasefire.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry issued a stark warning, emphasizing the "very serious repercussions" of any military action targeting Rafah. Echoing this sentiment, the United Arab Emirates issued its stern caution, expressing deep concern that Israel's proposed plan could lead to further loss of innocent lives and worsen the already dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
Hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians residing in Rafah express dire concern, emphasizing that they have no alternative refuge. Concurrently, in northern Gaza, inhabitants recount scenes of "utter devastation" wrought by Israeli military actions, with certain families resorting to consuming water from toilets in a desperate bid for survival.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached alarming proportions, with reports of severe shortages of essential supplies and infrastructure in ruins. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed or injured in the conflict, while countless others have been forced to flee their homes multiple times.
Despite calls for de-escalation and diplomatic efforts to find a resolution, Netanyahu's rejection of proposed ceasefire terms has further exacerbated tensions. The continued military actions have drawn sharp criticism from the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, all of whom have urged restraint and dialogue.
Aid organizations are struggling to cope with the logistical challenges of evacuating civilians from Rafah, as safe havens become increasingly scarce. The United Nations' humanitarian coordinator for Gaza has warned of the impending crisis, highlighting the plight of civilians who have nowhere else to turn if Israeli troops launch their offensive.