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UN human rights chief warns about huge implications of Israel’s Rafah offensive

The UN human rights chief says a potential full-fledged Israeli military incursion into Gaza is “terrifying” because some 1.5 million Palestinians have nowhere else to flee and “an extremely high number” of civilians are likely to be killed and injured.

A Palestinian man clears rubble from a damaged building following Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Monday(Bloomberg)

Volker Türk said in a statement Monday that “given the carnage wrought so far in Gaza it is wholly imaginable what would lie ahead in Rafah.”

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“Beyond the pain and suffering of the bombs and bullets, this incursion into Rafah may also mean the end of the meagre humanitarian aid that has been entering and distributed with huge implications for all of Gaza,” he said, “including the hundreds of thousands at grave risk of starvation and famine in the north.”

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Türk urged the world not to allow this to happen, reiterating UN calls for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages taken during Hamas’ attacks in southern Israel on Oct 7, and “renewed collective resolve to reach a political solution.”

Türk said he has repeatedly warned against actions violating the laws of war, and he warned again that the prospect of an Israeli military operation in Rafah “as circumstances stand, risks further atrocity crimes.”

ERDOGAN TO MEET WITH LEADERS OF UAE AND EGYPT OVER GAZA

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Israel’s widening attacks on Gaza would “top our agenda” when he meets with the leaders of the UAE and Egypt over the next two days.

In a televised address following his weekly Cabinet meeting in Ankara, Erdogan chastised the “hypocritical policy” of the West as the “reason for Israel’s recklessness.”

He highlighted Israeli operations in Rafah on Monday. Referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “wannabe Hitler,” he said Israel was “crossing a new red line every day in its policy of brutality and massacre.”

Western countries were “turning a blind eye to Netanyahu’s massacres,” he added.

Erdogan is due to meet UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Tuesday before travelling to Egypt on Wednesday to meet President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

“What more can we do for our Gazan brothers in the meetings we will hold in the Emirates and Egypt? God willing, we will look at it,” he said.

ISRAEL DENIES ENTRY TO UN OFFICIAL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA POST

JERUSALEM — Israel says it is denying entry to a United Nations official over a social media post she made about Hamas’ motives in its cross-border raid last year.

Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, posted on X over the weekend that Hamas did not kill Israelis on Oct 7 because they were Jews, but “as a reaction to Israel’s oppression.” She was responding to French President Emmanuel Macron, who called the attack the “largest antisemitic massacre of our century.”

Albanese’s post sparked an outcry in Israel.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel said Monday that Albanese would now be barred from entering Israel.

Albanese responded, in a posting on X, that she and previous special rapporteurs have been denied entry since 2008. The latest announcement “must not become a distraction from Israel’s atrocities in Gaza,” she added.

Israel has long accused UN bodies of being biased against it and has refused to cooperate with investigations into its actions in the Palestinian territories.

Last month, Israel alleged that a dozen UN workers in Gaza participated in the Oct 7 assault, prompting a wave of funding suspensions to the world body’s agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, a main aid provider in the war-torn territory.

HEAD OF UNRWA LISTS KEY OBSTACLES IN DISTRIBUTING AID

BRUSSELS — The UN agency that serves as the main provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza says it is facing mounting difficulties along its supply lines.

Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, told reporters in Brussels on Monday that aid trucks and convoys in Gaza are being looted because local police are reluctant to provide protection following recent Israeli strikes.

Several members of the Hamas-run police force have been killed in recent days in strikes on Rafah, the southernmost town in Gaza where most aid is brought into the territory.

Lazzarini said a shipment of food that could feed 1 million people for a month was being held up in the Israeli port city of Ashdod. Contractors “have been instructed not to handle and move this food because it is for UNRWA,” he said.

He said Israel has lifted the agency’s VAT tax exemption and that a local bank had frozen one of its accounts.

Last month, Israel said 12 UNRWA employees had taken part in the Hamas-led attack on Oct 7 that triggered the war. The agency immediately terminated the workers and launched an investigation. Several donor countries suspended funding, and UNRWA says if it is not restored, it will have to start scaling back aid operations within weeks.

THE UK IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF A RAFAH OFFENSIVE

The UK government said Monday it’s “deeply concerned” about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the UK wants Israel to “stop and think seriously before it takes any further action”.

“We are very concerned about what is happening in Rafah, because, let’s be clear, the people there, many of whom have moved four, five, six times before getting there. It really, we think, is impossible to see how you can fight a war amongst these people, there is nowhere for them to go,” Cameron told reporters.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said: “We are obviously deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah. Over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering there and that crossing is vital to ensuring aid can reach the people who desperately need it.”

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