Major Rafah offensive ‘cannot happen,’ UN human rights chief warns

A major Israeli offensive against the town of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, “cannot take place”, the UN human rights chief warned on Sunday, because it would contravene the ” IHL “.

“The latest evacuation orders affect nearly a million people in Rafah. Where should they go now? There is no safe place in Gaza! “, declared Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement.

“These exhausted, hungry people, many of whom have already been displaced several times, have no good options,” adds Mr. Türk, estimating that a large-scale offensive would have “a catastrophic impact” with “the possibility new atrocious crimes.”

“I do not see how the latest evacuation orders, much less an all-out assault, in an area where the presence of civilians is extremely dense, can comply with the binding requirements of international humanitarian law and with the two sets of interim measures binding measures ordered by the International Court of Justice,” adds the UN official.

Mr. Türk highlights the fact that the population is “already deeply traumatized” and that the towns supposed to receive people displaced from Rafah are already “reduced to ruins”.

Such an offensive “cannot take place”, he asserts, calling on all countries that can have influence to do everything to ensure that this does not happen.

He also calls on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to conclude a ceasefire, as well as the immediate release of all hostages.

According to the UN, some 1.4 million Palestinians, most of them displaced by Israeli bombings and fighting, are crowded into Rafah. Some 300,000 of them left the eastern districts of the city after several evacuation orders issued by Israel, according to the army.

The Gaza Strip is devastated by more than seven months of war between Israel and Hamas, triggered by an attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement against Israel on October 7.

This attack left more than 1,170 dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP report based on official Israeli data. More than 250 people have been kidnapped and 128 remain captive in Gaza, of whom 36 are believed to have died, according to the army.

The Hamas Ministry of Health reports a death toll of 35,034, mostly civilians, in the Palestinian territory since the start of the war.

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