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03/05/24 | 5:14 pm | Gaza | Hamas | Rafah | U.N

Rafah operation could result in ‘slaughter’, UN official says

An Israeli incursion in Rafah would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of Gazans at risk and be a huge blow to the humanitarian operations of the entire enclave, the U.N. humanitarian office said on Friday.

Israel has warned of an operation against Hamas in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where around a million displaced people are crowded together in shelters and makeshift accommodation, having fled months of Israeli bombardments triggered by Hamas fighters’ deadly cross-border attack on Oct. 7.

“It could be a slaughter of civilians and an incredible blow to the humanitarian operation in the entire strip because it is run primarily out of Rafah,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. humanitarian office, at a Geneva press briefing.

Aid operations run from Rafah included medical clinics and food distribution points, including centres for malnourished children, he said.

A World Health Organization official said at the same briefing that a contingency plan for an incursion had been prepared, which included a new field hospital, but said it would not be enough to prevent a substantial rise in the death toll.

“I want to really say that this contingency plan is a band-aid,” said Rik Peeperkorn, WHO representative for the occupied Palestinian territory via video link. “It will absolutely not prevent the expected substantial additional mortality and morbidity posed by a military operation.”

He added that he was “extremely concerned” that any incursion would close the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt which is currently being used to import medical supplies.

(Reuters)

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