Rafah offensive would lead to ‘humanitarian disaster’: UN chief

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An Israeli ground attack in Gaza’s Rafah would lead to an “epic humanitarian disaster,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Friday after negotiators left truce talks in Cairo without a deal.

“A massive ground attack in Rafah would lead to (an) epic humanitarian disaster and pull the plug on our efforts to support people as famine looms,” Guterres said during a visit to Nairobi, adding that the situation in the southern Gaza city was “on a knife’s edge.”

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“We are actively engaged with all involved for the resumption of the entry of life-saving supplies - including desperately needed fuel - through Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings,” he said, reiterating his calls for a ceasefire.

AFP journalists witnessed artillery strikes on Rafah, after US President Joe Biden vowed in an interview to cut off artillery shells and other weapons for Israel if a full-scale offensive into the city goes ahead.

It was the first time Biden raised the ultimate US leverage over Israel - military aid totaling $3 billion a year - after repeated appeals for Israel to stay out of Rafah.

Despite widespread international opposition, Israeli troops on Tuesday entered Rafah’s eastern sector, saying they were pursuing militants.

The Gaza war began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

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Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,904 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

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