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A scene from a displacement camp in Rafah, in southern Gaza. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Martin Griffiths, the UN emergency relief chief, warns of a slaughter of civilians if Israel goes ahead with a ground invasion into Rafah. 

The UN emergency relief chief, Martin Griffiths, has expressed fears that a ground invasion of Rafah by Israel could lead to a slaughter of civilians. 

“The scenario we have long dreaded is unraveling at alarming speed,” Griffiths said in a statement on Wednesday.

“I do fear a slaughter of people in Gaza. And the reason why I’m speaking out so clearly about this now is that I think there is a choice being made one way or the other, whether to move military operations into an assault on Rafah.” 

 He added that “I understand why the Israelis might wish to have an assault on Rafah,” but warned of “the consequence of such an operation”, which would have a “massive impact on the 1.1. million people living there.”

“Quite probably a slaughter because of the humanitarian operation, have no illusions about it, we can barely function at the moment due to a variety of issues,” Griffiths stressed.  

He said military operations in Rafah “could also leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door.”

Unparalleled Brutality  

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to go ahead with a ground invasion, after directing the army on Friday to draft a plan for evacuating the civilians in Rafah. This is despite international alarm over the potential consequences of such an invasion. 

More than half of Gaza’s population – well over 1 million people – are crammed in Rafah, most having been displaced from other parts of the enclave due to Israel’s ongoing military offensive since October 7.

Griffiths said they are “staring death in the face: They have little to eat, hardly any access to medical care, nowhere to sleep, nowhere safe to go.”

“They, like the entire population of Gaza, are the victims of an assault that is unparalleled in its intensity, brutality and scope,” the UN chief emphasized.

He reiterated that the international community has been warning against the dangerous consequences of any ground invasion in Rafah.

“The Government of Israel cannot continue to ignore these calls. History will not be kind,” he said.  “This war must end.”

Doing the Near-Impossible

For more than four months, Griffiths said, humanitarian workers have been doing “the near-impossible” to assist people in need, “despite the risks they themselves were facing and the traumas they were enduring.”

“But no amount of dedication and goodwill is enough to keep millions of people alive, fed and protected – while the bombs are falling and the aid is choked off.”

Add to this the widespread despair, the breakdown of law and order, and the defunding of UNRWA, the relief chief said.

The consequences are humanitarian workers “who are shot at, held at gunpoint, attacked and killed.”

“I have said for weeks now that our humanitarian response is in tatters,” he stressed. 

On Tuesday, Griffiths told UN News that it was an “illusion” to say that anywhere was safe in Gaza. He however added that the UN aid teams, and their partners, would do their utmost to help displaced civilians, wherever they decided to seek shelter.

Death Toll Rises 

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 28,663 Palestinians have been killed, and 68,395 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 8,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip. 

Palestinian and international organizations say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all of the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

(Palestine Chronicle)

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