Israeli assault on Rafah in Gaza ‘could lead to a bloodbath’: WHO chief

Israeli assault on Rafah in Gaza ‘could lead to a bloodbath’: WHO chief
Global -  An Israeli military ground assault into Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, where humanitarian aid groups estimate 1.2 million Palestinians are sheltering, could end in a “bloodbath”, the WHO warned Friday.اضافة اعلان

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to crush Hamas’s remaining fighters in Rafah, which is packed with displaced civilians.

The World Health Organization’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of possible dire implications.

“WHO is deeply concerned that a full-scale military operation in Rafah, Gaza, could lead to a bloodbath, and further weaken an already broken health system,” Tedros said on X, formerly Twitter.

In a statement, the WHO said a Rafah incursion would substantially increase mortality and morbidity.

“A new wave of displacement would exacerbate overcrowding, further limiting access to food, water, health and sanitation services, leading to increased disease outbreaks, worsening levels of hunger, and additional loss of lives,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

“The broken health system would not be able to cope with a surge in casualties and deaths that a Rafah incursion would cause.”

It said the three hospitals currently partially operational in Rafah would become unsafe to be reached by patients, staff, ambulances, and humanitarians when hostilities intensify in their vicinity and as a result quickly become non-functional.

“WHO calls for an immediate and lasting ceasefire and the removal of the obstacles to the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance into and across Gaza, at the scale that is required,” it said.

Earlier Friday, Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, said the United Nations had warned that a military operation in Rafah “could lead to a slaughter.”

“For agencies already struggling to provide humanitarian aid in Gaza, a ground invasion would strike a disastrous blow,” he told a media briefing.

“Any ground operation would mean more suffering and death.”

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war started after an unprecedented attack on southern Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7, 2023.

The attack resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also took some 250 hostages, of whom Israel estimates 128 remain in Gaza. The army says 35 of them are dead.

Israel’s relentless retaliatory military offensive has killed more than 34,000 people in Gaza -- most of them women and children -- according to the health ministry in the territory.

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