Western countries urge Israel to halt "catastrophic" Rafah invasion

Thirteen Western countries, including many traditionally supportive of Israel, appealed to it Friday not to launch a large-scale offensive on Gaza's Rafah.

Displaced Palestinians line up to buy water from a truck next to their temporary camp in Rafah on May 17, 2024.
Displaced Palestinians line up to buy water from a truck next to their temporary camp in Rafah on May 17, 2024.  © AFP

"We reiterate our opposition to a full-scale military operation in Rafah that would have catastrophic consequences on the civilian population," read the appeal, sent by the countries' foreign ministers to their Israeli counterpart Israel Katz and made public.

The signatories were Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the UK, and EU member states Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

The ministers welcomed recent measures adopted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet to improve the flow of international aid into Gaza, but called for "further steps."

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"We urge the Government of Israel to let the humanitarian aid enter into the Gaza strip through all relevant crossing points, including the one in Rafah," they said.

They called on Israel to take "concrete action for the protection of civilians, international and local humanitarian aid workers and journalists."

The appeal also called for "a sustainable ceasefire."

Western nations urge Israel to step up Gaza relief

A displaced Palestinian woman carries her son at a temporary camp in Rafah on May 17, 2024.
A displaced Palestinian woman carries her son at a temporary camp in Rafah on May 17, 2024.  © AFP

The ministers urged Israel to "open all possible overland supply routes into Gaza" for aid, to "resume electricity, water and telecommunication services," and to boost significantly "the supply of critically needed goods... particularly medical supplies."

Finally, they called on Israel to "facilitate further evacuations by issuing exit permits for all our citizens, eligible persons, and Palestinians admitted to relocate for humanitarian or medical reasons abroad."

Eight months after the start of the Gaza assault, Israel is vowing to intensify its ground offensive in Rafah despite international concerns for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians in the southern city.

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The Israeli siege of Gaza has brought dire shortages of food as well as safe water, medicines, and fuel for its 2.4 million people.

The arrival of occasional aid convoys has slowed to a trickle since Israeli forces took control last week of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing. Israeli settlers have also staged attacks on Gaza-bound humanitarian assistance.

In response to the crisis, South Africa this week once again argued for the International Court of Justice to order additional provisional measures against Israel.

Israel has killed at least 35,303 people in Gaza since October, according to data provided by the occupied territory's health ministry.

Cover photo: AFP

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