The UK’s foreign secretary, Lord David Cameron, has said he is ‘deeply concerned’ by Israel’s plan to launch a ground invasion of Rafah.
Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his troops to prepare a plan to evacuate the city in Gaza on Friday in preparation for a military offensive.
The Israeli prime minister said he asked the IDF to ‘submit to the cabinet a dual plan for both evacuating the population and bringing down the battalions’ ahead of an ‘intensive operation.’
Rishi Sunak and the British government promised Israel ‘unqualified support in the face of evil’ in the days following Hamas’ attacks on October 7.
Lord Cameron’s public condemnation of Mr Netanyahu’s plan therefore may raise eyebrows in some quarters, as he called for efforts towards a permanent ceasefire.
David Cameron (pictured) said: The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire’
Today, strikes killed at least 44 Palestinians, including more than a dozen children, in Rafah in the hours after Netanyahu’s speech
Israeli forces have ramped up their airstrikes and shelling against Rafah in preparation for the invasion
He said in a post to 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.’
Israeli forces have ramped up their airstrikes and shelling against Rafah in preparation for the invasion. Today, strikes killed at least 44 Palestinians, including more than a dozen children, in Rafah in the hours after Netanyahu’s speech.
Israel’s ground invasion and airstrike campaign against the Gaza Strip, which was home to around two million people before the deadly war, has so far killed more than 27,000 people, many of whom are women and children.
Netanyahu promised early on in the war that Rafah would be a safe place for Palestinian civilians to flee to.
It is the last remaining stronghold for Hamas fighters in Gaza, according to Israel, after more than four months of conflict triggered by the militant group’s deadly October 7 attack on Israel.
Vast swathes of the city are covered in makeshift tents set up to house the estimated 1.6 million people who have fled from further north.
In early January, it was calculated that the tents take up an area of 2.9 square km, the equivalent to around 400 football pitches.
Cameron, 57, is the latest figure on the world stage to raise concerns about the planned invasion, which follows invasions of both Gaza City, in the north of the enclave, and Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both of which are key mediators in negotiations between Hamas and Israel, have called on the UN Security Council to convene in light of the plans.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry called on the supra-national body to ‘to prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian disaster for which everyone who supports the aggression is responsible.’
A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 10, 2024
A firefighter extinguishes a burning car hit by an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US’ National Security Council, said Joe Biden’s administration would not support Israel’s planned campaign against Rafah
Relatives of the Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks including children, mourn as the bodies are brought to al-Najjar hospital in Rafah
Qatar followed suit, and called for ‘urgent action that prevents the Israeli occupation forces’ invasion of Rafah and the commission of genocide in the city, in addition to providing full protection for the civilians.’
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US’ National Security Council, said Joe Biden’s administration would not support Israel’s planned campaign against Rafah, warning that it would be a ‘disaster’ for the civilians who have been pushed there.
The EU also condemned the plans, with the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell calling them ‘alarming.’
Borrell added in a post to X: ‘It would have catastrophic consequences worsening the already dire humanitarian situation & the unbearable civilian toll.’
Gazan children are going without food for days in the north of Gaza as aid convoys are increasingly restricted from entering, according to a report.
Some residents are making flour from animal feed because they are starving, but even those supplies are running out, some people living in the northern section of the enclave told the BBC.
A Palestinian mother feeds her child near a makeshift tent as the Palestinian families seek refuge
Gazan children are going without food for days in the north of Gaza as aid convoys are increasingly restricted from entering
An aerial view of the makeshift tents in Gaza
They also said that some people are digging down into the earth to access water pipes for washing and drinking.
The UN has said that the number of young children with acute malnutrition in the north has grown dramatically, and is past the 15 per cent threshold.
Over half the aid missions to the north of Gaza were refused access in January and Israeli troops are intervening more frequently in the location and method of deliveries, according to the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency, Ocha.
The body says that 300,000 people estimated to be residing in areas in the north are mostly unable to get help and the risk of famine is increasing.
A spokesperson for Cogat, the Israeli military agency whose role is to coordinate aid access in Gaza, said in January that there was ‘no starvation in Gaza. Period’.
The agency has said on many occasions that it does not restrict the quantity of humanitarian aid sent to the enclave.