United Nations Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep concerns over the escalating humanitarian crisis in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Wednesday, saying an extension of Israeli operations there would have “disastrous” repercussions.
Rafah is “where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety,” he said in an address to the UN General Assembly Wednesday.
Highlighting the dire situation as a “humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences,” he urgently called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the unconditional release of all hostages”.
Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also raised concerns about a potential expansion of Israeli military operations into Rafah during meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials, two Israeli officials told CNN.
Rafah is where thousands of displaced civilians fled to as fighting intensified in northern Gaza and slowly made its way south.
Those trapped in the city have no remaining escape route. The city borders Egypt, and the crossing into that country has been closed for months.
Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military’s chief of staff, briefed Blinken on Wednesday on Rafah, one Israeli official said, including the complexity of maneuvering in an area with so many civilians and which is located right on the Egyptian border.