David Cameron has said he is “deeply concerned” about a planned Israeli ground invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah.
Rafah, on the southern border with Egypt, is one of the only regions not yet targeted by an Israeli ground offensive and is providing refuge to more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population.
It is the last remaining stronghold for Hamas fighters in Gaza, according to Israel, after more than four months of conflict triggered by the terrorist group’s 7 October atrocity on Israel.
The foreign secretary wrote on X: “Deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah – over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering in the area.
“The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire.”
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signalled there would be an imminent invasion of Rafah, saying he had asked the military to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people there. It has raised questions over where civilians could be moved to, with Israeli evacuation orders now covering two-thirds of the territory.
On Saturday, at least 44 Palestinians — including more than a dozen children — were killed by Israeli air strikes in Rafah.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy tweeted on Friday: “1.4 million displaced Palestinians are in Rafah, with nowhere to go. It’s the gateway for aid to Gaza. An Israeli offensive there would be catastrophic. Far too many civilians have already been killed or wounded.
“The fighting must stop now. We need a sustainable ceasefire.”
Tensions have risen between Mr Netanyahu and the US, which has warned Israeli forces against expanding its Gaza ground offensive to the southern city.
As the Israeli bombardment has escalated, concerns have been increasing about the plight of Gaza civilians who are facing shortages of food and medical services.
The latest figures from the Hamas-run health ministry put the overall Palestinian death toll at more than 28,000.
Netanyahu’s pledge to attack Rafah came as he also rejected Hamas’s ceasefire proposals.
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