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Israel possible military operation in Rafah ‘completely catastrophic’: UN envoy

Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland speaks about 2024 priorities to the General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City on February 7, 2024. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR / AFP) (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process warned, Wednesday, about a “completely catastrophic” potential Israeli military operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Anadolu Agency reports.

“We know very well. The Israelis know, even better, but still planning that having a very active warfare in the area of ​​Rafah, with more than 1.2 million people assembled … will be completely catastrophic,” Tor Wennesland said at a news conference in New York.

His remarks came after Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, said Monday that the army’s next target in Gaza will be Rafah, claiming it is the last remaining stronghold of the Palestinian group, Hamas.

It is impossible for the UN system to deliver aid “sufficiently and most effectively” on the ground as the hostilities are ongoing, he said.

“We can actually, not at the moment, easily access the north of Gaza, given the conflict as it is, so that conflict needs a pause quickly,” added Wennesland.

Commending efforts by Egypt and Qatar, he said it would take “some very hard” diplomatic work to get a ceasefire.

“It’s hard to find words on what to say to the people in Gaza as they’ve lost everything and they’ve been exposed to a massive destruction.

“It is very difficult to preach hope when you sit in a safe place to people who are sitting in the middle of what is hellish,” he said.

He stressed that the humanitarian system is not designed and set up to carry the delivery of all goods into Gaza for 2.2 million people and said: “We cannot get out to where we are unless the ceasefire will start.”

After a ceasefire is reached, it will take one year “optimistically” to clean Gaza, he said.

“I mean, don’t think about the quick jump into reconstruction of the nice villas. It won’t happen,” he added.

Israel has launched a deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip since 7 October, killing at least 27,708 Palestinians and injuring 67,174 others, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Israeli offensive has left 85 per cent of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

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