UN Voices Alarm As Israel Prepares For Rafah Invasion


(MENAFN- Gulf Times) The UN chief warned Monday that an invasion of Rafah in far-southern Gaza would "put the final nail in the coffin" of aid operations, after Israel said its army had readied a plan to move civilians out of the packed city.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Rafah -- where 1.4mn Palestinians live in crowded shelters near the Egyptian border -- is also "the core of the humanitarian aid operation" in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The presence of Israeli and Hamas officials in Qatar for so-called proximity talks - meeting mediators separately while in the same city - suggested negotiations were further along than at any time since a big push at the start of February.
As tensions simmered across the region, Israel fired the first strikes on Lebanon's east since the start of the Gaza war, killing two Hezbollah fighters.
In another shock impact of the almost five-month-old war, Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in the occupied West Bank handed in his government's resignation to the head of the Palestinian Authority, president Mahmud Abbas.
Shtayyeh cited "the new reality" in Gaza and "the escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem", where deadly violence has surged since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7.
Heavy fighting raged on in Gaza, where Israeli forces launched strikes and ground operations, killing 92 people overnight according to the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry.
Israel's military campaign has killed at least 29,782 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the ministry.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed Sunday that, despite ongoing talks toward a ceasefire, the army will launch a ground invasion of Rafah to achieve "total victory" over Hamas.
Desperate families in Gaza's north have scavenged for food as most aid trucks have been halted, with many people eating animal fodder and the meat of slaughtered horses.
Mediators meanwhile continued stuttering negotiations towards a ceasefire and hostage release deal, with hopes it can be in place before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in about two weeks.
Media reports suggest the warring parties are weighing a six-week halt to fighting and the initial exchange of dozens of hostages for several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel.

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