‘Pressure Cooker of Despair’: UN, EU ‘Deeply Concerned’ about Rafah Invasion

Palestinian refugees in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

On Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed that the Israeli army was preparing to move to Rafah.

Israeli occupation forces intensified their attacks last night in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as their fighter jets struck three homes, killing 24 and wounding dozens, the Ministry of Health announced.

Rafah is densely populated with displaced people from all around the besieged Gaza Strip.

Rafah Assault 

On Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed that the Israeli army was preparing to move to Rafah. However, Israeli media reported on Saturday that Tel Aviv had pledged to Egypt it would not start an operation in Rafah before reducing its population.

According to the Israeli media, the Israeli government would move the displaced people to Khan Yunis or Deir Al-Balah and not back to the northern part of Gaza.

Israeli reports stated that this was proof the Israeli occupation army had forced residents from the northern part of Gaza to the southern part by a political decision intended to use them as a bargaining chip in ceasefire talks.

EU ‘Deeply Concerned’

The European Union has expressed its deep concern over reports that Israel intends to invade Rafah.

The EU’s top diplomat warned that the war is likely to spread throughout the Middle East region unless a ceasefire is reached, warning of the dangers associated with an Israeli invasion of the densely populated city.

Speaking in Brussels, where he was chairing informal talks among EU foreign ministers, Josep Borrell said that around 1 million Palestinians “have been displaced progressively against the Egyptian border. They claimed they were safe zones, but in fact, what we see is that the bombing affecting the civilian population continues and it is creating a very dire situation.”

The prospect of a ground Israeli invasion of Rafah has raised fears about where the population would go to find safety. The United Nations said the town is becoming a “pressure cooker of despair.”

“We are living a critical situation in the Middle East, in the whole region,” he said. “As long as the war in Gaza continues, it is very difficult to believe that the situation in the Red Sea will improve, because one thing is related with (sic) the other.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, warned of “a real risk of spillover” of the war.

“It’s a huge concern. We ask for restraint, and we ask for dialogue and diplomacy. It’s the only way we can calm down the situation in the Middle East,” she told reporters.

War on UNRWA 

Borrell also expressed concern about the fate of the UN agency responsible for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), after the United States and other countries suspended their funding for Gaza’s biggest humanitarian aid provider.

Borrell said the majority of ministers present from the 27 EU nations believe that UNRWA’s work is vital. 

While some countries have frozen their support, Borrell said that other ministers informed him that their governments would step up funding.  

“UNRWA has been playing a critical role to support the Palestinian refugees, and not only in Gaza” but also in Lebanon and Jordan, Borrell said. 

“Who can substitute that overnight?” he asked.


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