- By Tom Bateman, State Department Correspondent and Katherine Armstrong
- BBC News
The United States warned Israel that launching a military attack on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip without proper planning would be a “disaster.”
The White House said it would not support plans for any major operations in Rafah without giving due consideration to the refugees there.
These statements come a day after the Israeli leader announced that the army had been informed of the preparations for the operation in Rafah.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled there to escape the fighting.
“The Israeli military has a special obligation when conducting operations there or elsewhere to ensure that it takes into account the protection of the lives of innocent civilians,” John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council, said on Thursday.
“Military operations now would be a disaster for these people and that is not something we support.”
Kirby added that the United States had not seen anything indicating that Israel would launch a major operation in Rafah imminently.
State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel echoed Mr. Kirby’s comments, saying: “We [the US] He added: “We will not support doing something like this without serious and credible planning regarding the more than a million people who have taken refuge there, as well as without considering its implications for humanitarian aid and the safe departure of foreign nationals.” Reporters.
In response to a question from the BBC about where the refugees in Rafah should go in the event of such an operation, Patel said that these are “legitimate questions that we believe the Israelis must answer.”
“It is not our place to be prescriptive about these matters but what you raise is exactly why it is important to ensure that these processes are fully considered, especially in a region where more than a million people are sheltered.”
It is rare for the United States, Israel's main ally and military backer, to talk about any upcoming stages of Israel's military offensive in Gaza – but this was a clear warning.
Washington sends about $3.8bn (£3bn) in military aid to Israel every year, making the country the largest recipient of such funding in the world.
About 1,300 people were killed during Hamas attacks on southern Israel on October 7 last year, according to Israeli officials.
More than 27,800 Palestinians were killed and at least 67,000 others wounded in the war Israel launched in response, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
No part of Gaza has been spared from the Israeli attack so far, but Rafah, located on the border with Egypt, now hosts up to 1.5 million people – more than half of Gaza's population – living in dire humanitarian conditions.
“They are living in overcrowded temporary shelters, in unsanitary conditions, without running water, electricity and adequate food supplies,” was the stark assessment of the situation issued by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday.
“We have been clear in our condemnation of the horrific actions carried out by Hamas. We have also been clear in our condemnation of violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza.”
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