Israel military push in Rafah poses ‘disastrous risk’: Red Cross

Israel military push in Rafah poses ‘disastrous risk’: Red Cross

GENEVA (AFP) : Israel’s looming military push into the southern Gaza city of Rafah could have a dire impact, the Red Cross warned on Wednesday, demanding that “the fundamental principle of humanity” be upheld.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) cautioned that increased and sustained hostilities in Rafah, where over 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped, posed a “disastrous risk to civilian lives and infrastructure.”

Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers have been at war for four months and the threat of a Rafah ground operation has triggered global alarm over the potential for mass civilian casualties.

“We renew our call on the parties to the conflict, and all who have influence on them, to spare and protect civilian lives and infrastructure,” Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s Middle East director, said in a statement.

“Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict must ensure the basic necessities of life are provided and the necessary safeguards to preserve life are undertaken for the civilian population,” he said.

The Hamas attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

At least 28,500 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s response, according to the latest Gaza health ministry figures.

Pointing to indications that “a new phase of the conflict is unfolding,” the ICRC insisted that “even amidst the carnage and extreme polarization, the fundamental principle of humanity must be upheld.”

Israel, as the occupying power, bore responsibility under international law for ensuring that the basic needs of the civilian population are met, it said.

ICRC stressed that “forced displacement” was explicitly banned under international humanitarian law, as was the use of human shields and indiscriminate attacks that cause disproportionate civilian death, injury and destruction.

Any planned evacuations ahead of an incursion, meanwhile, entailed a long list of responsibilities.

“Evacuations have to ensure that civilians arrive safely, and have satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, and that members of the same family are not separated,” the ICRC said, adding that they also “must be able to return to their homes as soon as hostilities have stopped.”

Those responsible for the evacuations also needed to “account for the reality of massive numbers of people moving across bomb-damaged roads, past the rubble of destroyed buildings and through areas contaminated by unexploded weapons,” it added.