Situation in Rafah on ‘knife’s edge’: UN chief


Rafah is “on a knife’s edge,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday amid ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city.

“The situation in Rafah is on a knife’s edge, as airstrikes continue throughout southern Gaza. Over 1 million Palestinians, half of whom are children, have crowded in the Rafah Governate for shelter,” Guterres said at a news conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Warning against a feared Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, he said: “A massive ground attack in Rafah would lead to an epic humanitarian disaster and pull the plug on our efforts to support people as famine looms.”

Guterres highlighted that the UN is working to facilitate the resumption of vital supplies to Gaza, which has long been under strict Israeli blockade, through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, including urgently needed fuel.

“Meanwhile, our health partners tell us that all the key medical facilities in Rafah could soon become inaccessible or inoperable — including the only dialysis department still operating in Gaza,” he added.

“Around 100,000 Palestinians are moving north from Rafah, yet humanitarian partners have no tents or food stores left in south Gaza,” he further said.

Guterres stressed that under international humanitarian law, the safety of civilians must be ensured in a conflict.

“And, of course, what happens in Gaza has profound repercussions in the occupied West Bank, where we see a deeply disturbing spike in settler violence, excessive use of force by the Israeli Defense Force (military), demolitions and evictions,” he said.

He urged more global efforts to advocate for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, the prompt and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages held in the enclave, and a major increase in life-saving assistance.

Pointing out that more conflicts have been erupting across the globe, Guterres said the destiny of Palestinians, Israelis, and the entire region “hangs in the balance.”

Israeli forces have continued their military attacks in the eastern areas of Rafah city, southern Gaza Strip, since Monday, leading to the displacement of more than 100,000 Palestinians from these areas to the southwestern part of the Strip.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a Hamas attack last Oct. 7, which killed 1,200 people. More than 34,900 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, mostly women and children, and over 78,500 others injured, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Over seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins, pushing 85% of the enclave’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water, and medicine, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January said it is “plausible” that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and ordered Tel Aviv to stop such acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.__The Nation