After the announcement of an imminent ground operation on the city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants have taken refuge, Joe Biden called Benjamin Netanyahu. The US president urged the prime minister not to start the attack before having developed a “credible and achievable plan” to protect the city's civilian population. The allies are also worried: “It will be a humanitarian catastrophe.”
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Telephone conversation in the late afternoon today, Sunday 11 February, between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the ground offensive announced by Israel in the city of Rafah , in the south of the Gaza Strip, on the border with 'Egypt.
The call came after the Washington Post had spoken of an imminent 'rip between the two leaders' . Joe Biden reiterated the “shared” objective of seeing Hamas “defeated” and guaranteeing the long-term security of Israel and its people, but also urged the prime minister not to start any operation before having developed a ” credible and achievable plan “to protect the civilian population of the city, where refugees from the entire area have gathered.
More than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people have fled to Rafah and crammed into vast tent cities and UN-run shelters near the border. Netanyahu announced the offensive and promised to ensure “safe passage” and added that Israel was “drawing up a detailed plan” to move Gazans to areas north of Rafah, but gave no further details. “Victory is within reach,” the prime minister said, “we will bring the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions to Rafah, which is the last bastion. Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah, are basically saying to lose war,” he added.
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International appeals: “Operation in Rafah will be a humanitarian catastrophe”
A firm condemnation of “Israeli plans to invade Rafah” came from the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as reported by the Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour . In addition to recalling that Israel is meanwhile “continuing its incessant war on Gaza and the forced exodus of the Palestinians”, in the note released by Beirut diplomacy and cited by the newspaper, the UN Security Council is asked to “take its responsibility by adopting a decision on an immediate ceasefire , on humanitarian aid for the Palestinians and on the recognition of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
The operation also immediately alarmed Egypt , which threatened to suspend the Camp David peace treaty with Israel if Israeli troops are sent to Rafah. Egypt fears a mass influx of refugees who may never be allowed to return. Cairo also added that fighting in the area could force the closure of the crossing , the main route for supplying aid to Gaza.
The hypothesis of an attack on Rafah also worries Israel's allies . “I am very concerned about the prospect of a military offensive on Rafah. Over half the population of Gaza is taking refuge in the area,” said David Cameron, British Foreign Secretary. According to Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot , an “offensive on Rafah would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe “.
“The suffering in Rafah is already incredible. 1.3 million people seek protection from the fighting in the most limited space. An Israeli army offensive on Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe ,” echoed German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock , announcing that he will travel to Israel in the middle of next week. “Israel must defend itself from Hamas terrorism – writes the German minister on I will discuss ways to achieve this,” he concluded.
Hamas: “Military attack on Rafah will mean cessation of negotiations”
Hamas also hit back at Netanyahu and threatened to suspend negotiations on the release of the hostages if Israel launches a ground operation on Rafah. This was said by a Hamas source quoted by the Al-Aqs television channel and relaunched by the Jerusalem Post. The source added: “Netanyahu is trying to evade the fulfillment of the agreement with a mass massacre and a new humanitarian disaster in Rafah. A military attack in Rafah means the cessation of negotiations on an agreement .”
Meanwhile, at least 25 people were killed and dozens more injured following an Israeli bombardment that hit a residential building east of Rafah, as reported by Al Jazeera . The broadcaster also said two more civilians were killed in what a Palestinian security source said was a failed assassination attempt by Tel Aviv on a senior Hamas official near Beirut, Lebanon.