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Israel’s Rafah offensive will have ‘catastrophic’ repercussions, says Catholic charity

by Heather Preston

Catholic aid agency CAFOD has warned of the potentially catastrophic impact on civilians as Israel continues its ground offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Israel's military said it's carrying out a “precise counterterrorism operation” in the city - where over a million people are sheltering - to target Hamas infrastructure underground. It comes after Israel refused a ceasefire agreement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “falls short” of key demands.

More than 34,000 people have been killed in retaliatory attacks on Gaza, following Hamas' 7th October attack on Israel and has led to a worsening humanitarian crisis in the region.

CAFOD’s local partner in Rafah has described how traumatised families are being repeatedly moved and torn apart in lieu of any safe or permanent place to stay.

“There is nowhere left to host the people now being displaced from Rafah, and aid workers are facing impossible choices about whether to reopen damaged shelters that aren’t safe to house people,” they said.

Thousands of civilians were ordered to flee the city earlier this week, as Israel’s military seized operational control of the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza – a key terminal for the entry of humanitarian aid.

The UN secretary general warned that a full-scale invasion of the area by Israel forces would be a “humanitarian nightmare”.

On Wednesday, the IDF reopened the border crossing to allow aid to reach those in need.

Meanwhile, the US has halted a shipment of weapons to Israel because of its concerns about a full-scale assault.

CAFOD has urged the UK government to stop supplying arms to Israel and reinstate funding to the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA) – to which funding was previously suspended after it was alleged some of its staff were involved in the October attacks on Israel.

“There is no way that a ground offensive in Rafah will be anything but catastrophic for civilians. With nearly 35,000 lives lost already, CAFOD is urging the UK to wake up to their complicity through arms sales to Israel, which must end now,” CAFOD’s Middle Eastern representative Elizabeth Funnell said.


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