WhatsApp Logo Subscribe
For News Alert

News

Fears grow for Rafah as Israel aggression rages on 200th day

By AFP

April 24, 2024 11:55 AM


Representational image

Twitter Share Facebook Share WhatsApp Share

 

The Israel-Hamas war entered its 200th day on Tuesday as aid groups warned that Israeli plans to invade the southern city of Rafah where most Gazans have taken refuge would create an "apocalyptic situation".

Fears have been rising that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon follow through on repeated threats to send troops into Rafah, where 1.5 million people have sought shelter, many in makeshift encampments.

"Everybody seems to be on a countdown to war across the largest displacement camp on Earth, which is Rafah," Norwegian Refugee Council chief Jan Egeland told AFP.

Egeland warned that a ground assault on Rafah would be an "apocalyptic situation" and that humanitarian groups "are completely in the dark on how to mitigate this countdown to a catastrophe".

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations rights office said it was "horrified" at reports of mass graves found at the Gaza Strip's two biggest hospitals after Israeli sieges and raids.

Israel has repeatedly targeted Gazan medical facilities during the war, accusing Hamas of using them as command centres and to hold hostages abducted on October 7. Hamas denies the accusation.

Over the past three days, Gaza's Civil Defence agency said nearly 340 bodies were uncovered of people killed and buried by Israeli forces at the Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

Israel's army responded by saying that claims it had buried Palestinian bodies were "baseless and unfounded", without directly addressing allegations that Israeli troops were behind the killings.

The army said that "corpses buried by Palestinians" had been examined by Israeli troops searching for hostages and then "returned to their place".

UN rights chief Volker Turk called for an "independent" probe into the deaths at Nasser and Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospitals, noting the "special protection" awarded to medical facilities under international law.

UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said some of the bodies found at Nasser were allegedly "found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes", adding that efforts were underway to corroborate the reports.

AFP images from the scene showed numerous bodies under white shrouds in front of the bombed-out Nasser Hospital.

The White House said it would discuss the subject with Israel.

"Obviously scenes of mass graves in general are deeply concerning but I don't have anything that can confirm the veracity of those," US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

- Calls to free hostages -

The Israeli army carried out intense shelling overnight of Gaza City, AFP correspondents and witnesses said.

Shelling and loud explosions were heard in southwest Gaza and Khan Yunis city, while strikes hit the Bureij and Nuseirat refugee camps in central Gaza.

The war began with an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in the death of around 1,170 people, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

In retaliation, Israel launched a military offensive that has killed at least 34,183 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The Israeli army announced the death of a soldier in Gaza, raising its toll to 261 since the ground operation began.

Israel estimates that 129 of the roughly 250 people abducted during the Hamas attack remain in Gaza, including 34 who the military says are dead.

Public pressure has mounted on Netanyahu's government to strike a truce deal that would secure the release of the remaining hostages.

Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, said that "after 200 days, the enemy remains trapped in the sands of Gaza" and the hostages would "most likely" not return home soon.

At a rally near Netanyahu's home in the coastal town of Caesarea, protesters including relatives of hostages set fire to a symbolic Passover table at the start of the week-long Jewish holiday on Monday.

Dalit Shtivi, whose son Idan was kidnapped on October 7, said she was struggling to cope without him during Passover, also known as the "holiday of freedom".

"It's so hard. I cannot explain the pain. I cannot... think of celebrating without him," she said.

- US campus protests -

Outcry has been growing around the world against Israel's offensive, which has turned vast areas of Gaza to rubble and sparked fears of famine.

Hundreds of students have been arrested in recent days at pro-Palestinian demonstrations on the campuses of prominent universities in the United States, Israel's top ally and military supplier.

In Gaza, the United Nations says "multiple obstacles" continue to impede delivery of urgently needed aid for Gazans desperate for food, water, shelter and medicine.

But Netanyahu has vowed to press on with a planned offensive on Rafah, on the besieged territory's border with Egypt.

Citing Egyptian officials briefed on the Israeli plans, the Wall Street Journal said Israel was planning to move civilians from Rafah to nearby Khan Yunis over a period of two to three weeks.

Satellite images shared by Maxar Technologies showed tent camps that had recently been set up in that area.

The Journal reported that Israel would then send troops into Rafah gradually, targeting areas where Hamas's leaders are thought to be hiding, in a military operation that would last six weeks.

- Call to renew UN agency funding -

The European Union's humanitarian chief Janez Lenarcic called on international donors to fund the United Nations agency UNRWA, which has been central to aid operations in Gaza.

His comment came after a much-awaited independent report found that "Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence" for its claim that UNRWA employs "terrorists".

The report did find "neutrality-related issues", such as agency staff sharing biased posts on social media.

After the report was released, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini called for an investigation into the "blatant disregard" for UN operations in Gaza, adding that 180 of the agency's staff have been killed since the war began.

While some countries have renewed funding for the agency, the US and Britain are among the hold-outs.

The White House would "have to see real progress" before it restores funding, Kirby said.

The Gaza war has triggered violence across the region, with deadly cross-border exchanges on Tuesday between the Israeli army and Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Hamas ally.

The Iran-backed Lebanese group said it launched drones at northern Israeli army bases in retaliation for a strike deep into Lebanon that killed a Hezbollah fighter.

A woman and a girl were killed in an Israeli strike on southern Lebanon later on Tuesday, local rescuers and official media said.


AFP


Most Read

  1. Hania Aamir and Zaviyar Nauman's Nikkah glam gives ‘heart attack’ to many Hania Aamir and Zaviyar Nauman's Nikkah glam gives ‘heart attack’ to many
  2. Guard shoots dead his employer in Lahore’s Ghalib Market Guard shoots dead his employer in Lahore’s Ghalib Market
  3. Ex-CJP Saqib Nisar uses influence for grandson at Aitchison College Ex-CJP Saqib Nisar uses influence for grandson at Aitchison College
  4. Bomb blast kills two labourers in Kot Addu scrap godown Bomb blast kills two labourers in Kot Addu scrap godown
  5. Woman hit by car in Lahore's Askari XI breathes her last Woman hit by car in Lahore's Askari XI breathes her last
  6. Abdu Rozik postpones his wedding with Amira, for what reason? Abdu Rozik postpones his wedding with Amira, for what reason?

Opinion

  1. An Unmissable Opportunity: The Time for Modi and Islamabad leadership to Resume Bilateral Dialogue is Now!
    An Unmissable Opportunity: The Time for Modi and Islamabad leadership to Resume Bilateral Dialogue is Now!

    By Sudheendra Kulkarni

  2. Premier Shehbaz and Chinese model
    Premier Shehbaz and Chinese model

    By Naveed Aman Khan

  3. Modi's myth broken, yet in power
    Modi's myth broken, yet in power

    By Naveed Aman Khan

  4. Xi, Shehbaz and CPEC phase - 2
    Xi, Shehbaz and CPEC phase - 2

    By Naveed Aman Khan

  5. Pakistan's UNSC Triumph: A New Era
    Pakistan's UNSC Triumph: A New Era

    By Dr Asif Channer

  6. Shehbaz, Deng, Xi and transformation
    Shehbaz, Deng, Xi and transformation

    By Naveed Aman Khan