Palestinian civilians in Rafah in the Gaza Strip need to be protected, but there should not be any forced mass displacement, the United Nations said yesterday after Israel began drawing up an evacuation plan to allow it to defeat Hamas in the area.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israel’s military yesterday to draw up a dual plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians from the crowded southern Gazan city of Rafah.
His office announced the move as pressure mounted on Israel over its threat to launch a ground assault on Rafah, the last refuge for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are trapped in the city after fleeing fighting elsewhere.
More than half Gaza’s 2.3 million people are sheltering in Rafah, many of them penned up against the border fence with Egypt and living in makeshift tents.
“We’re extremely worried about the fate of civilians in Rafah,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said yesterday.
“What is clear is that people need to be protected, but we also do not want to see any forced displacement – forced mass displacement – of people, which is by definition against their will,” Dujarric said. “We would not support in any way forced displacement, which goes against international law.”
Meanwhile, the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday a plan announced by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for a military escalation in Rafah aims to drive Palestinians from their land.
The office of Abbas said it holds both the Israeli government and the US administration responsible for the plan’s repercussions.
The Palestinian presidency called on the UN Security Council to take heed, “because (Israel) taking this step threatens security and peace in the region and the world. It crosses all red lines”, the statement said.