Israel to face ‘serious repercussions’ over Rafah strikes – Saudi Arabia

Riyadh has said that going ahead with a major ground offensive planned in southern Gaza would cause a humanitarian disaster

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry has issued a warning to Israel and its allies, saying they will face “very serious repercussions” if West Jerusalem goes through with a planned ground offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip’s last place of refuge for civilians who have been displaced by the ongoing war. 

The ministry’s statement, posted on Saturday, decried the expected “storming and targeting” of Rafah, Gaza, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians have sought a safe haven after being driven from their homes by Israeli bombing. 

Rafah is “the last resort for hundreds of thousands of civilians forced by the brutal Israeli aggression to flee,” Riyadh said. “The kingdom affirms its categorical rejection and strong condemnation of their forcible deportation and renews its demand for an immediate ceasefire.”

The statement came one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his military to make plans for evacuating the civilians crowded into Rafah as commanders prepare to attack the last Hamas stronghold in the Palestinian enclave. The city’s pre-war population was around 280,000 people. 

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Netanyahu has rejected international calls for a ceasefire and has insisted that only “total victory” over Hamas will make Israel safe from the sort of attacks that triggered the region’s latest war in October. Israel launched airstrikes in Rafah on Saturday, killing at least 44 people, according to Hamas.

More than 28,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health authorities. The UN has reported that 85% of the population has been displaced from their homes, and 570,000 Gazans are starving. The conflict began when Hamas fighters raided Israeli villages, killing more than 1,200 people and taking hundreds of hostages back to Gaza.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry suggested that both Israel and its backers will be held accountable for what happens in Rafah. “This continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law confirms the need for an urgent convening of the UN Security Council to prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian disaster for which everyone who supports the aggression is responsible.”

Saudi Arabia and Israel were reportedly negotiating to establish diplomatic relations when the surprise Hamas attacks were launched. The desert kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said earlier this week that it will not establish formal ties with Israel until the “aggression” against Gaza is halted and an independent Palestinian state – framed along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital – is recognized.

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