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Saudi Arabia says Israel invasion of Rafah will cause humanitarian disaster

Saudi Arabia has warned Israel that a planned invasion of the city of Rafah could cause an imminent humanitarian disaster.

With Israel poised to launch a ground invasion of Rafah, on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip and bordering Egypt, the oil-producing nation’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Saturday calling for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict. More than half of Gaza’s estimated population of 2.3 million people are currently crammed into Gaza City.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has ordered the military to draw up a plan to evacuate populated cities ahead of a ground invasion to wipe out four Hamas battalions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Sean Gallup/Getty Images, left, Sergei Savostanov/Pool/AFP, via Getty Images, right)

Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to evacuate civilians from large-scale Gaza City as invasion looms

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had asked the military to come up with a plan to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from the city ahead of a ground invasion. Most of the current population has fled to the city from other parts of Gaza since the conflict began, and Saudi Arabia claims they have nowhere else to go. The timeline for a potential ground invasion is unknown.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia warns of the very serious consequences of attacking and targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, a last resort for hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the brutal Israeli invasion. ” Saudi Arabia said in a statement. The Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states:

“Saudi Arabia firmly rejects and strongly condemns their forced return, and reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire.”

The warning from Saudi Arabia came on the same day that 31 Palestinians, including 10 children, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the city.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed earlier this week that Israeli forces would continue fighting until “complete victory” was achieved, including in Rafah, even after ceasefire negotiations failed.

Gaza body bag

People mourn after receiving the bodies of victims of Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza, on February 10, 2024. (Ahmad Hasabalah/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire agreement, says “complete victory” will be “within a few months”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Rafah’s population was 264,000 at the beginning of 2022, but since the conflict began, the population has swelled to about 1.4 million as people seek shelter. . It is unclear where Rafah’s civilians will be able to flee next.

At least 28,000 Palestinians have been killed and 67,600 injured in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7, the Gaza Health Ministry said on Saturday, according to Reuters. The conflict has been raging for four months and was ignited after a surprise terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7, when militants crossed the border from Gaza and massacred around 1,200 people.

“This continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law necessitates an urgent convening of the United Nations Security Council to prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian disaster for which all who support the invasion are responsible.” ” the Saudi statement concluded.

Saudi Arabia had been in diplomatic talks with the United States toward recognition in the months leading up to the October 7 attacks, but had never formally recognized Israel and faced Arab anger over the Israeli attacks. Riyadh has shelved the issue.

Antony Blinken of Saudi Arabia

Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on February 5, 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

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Earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital and major financial center.

Saudi Arabia has informed the United States that it will not open diplomatic relations with Israel unless the 1967 independent Palestinian state on the border with East Jerusalem is recognized as its capital, the country’s Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday.

Riyadh reiterated its call to the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which have not yet recognized the Palestinian state along the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital, to do so, the ministry said in a statement.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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