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Israel intensifies airstrikes on Rafah in southern Gaza

Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment in Rafah   -  
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Fatima Shbair/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.


United Nations Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, on Thursday voiced deep concern about widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza by Israeli Defence Forces.

“The IDF are reportedly destroying all buildings in the Gaza Strip that are within a kilometre of the Israel-Gaza fence, clearing the area with the objective of creating a 'buffer zone',” Türk said.

He added that destruction carried out to create a buffer zone for general security purposes did not appear to be consistent narrow “military operations” exceptions set out in international humanitarian law.

“Extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime,” he said.

“Since October, my office has recorded widespread destruction and demolition by the IDF of civilian and other infrastructure, including residential buildings, schools, and universities in areas in which fighting is not, or no longer taking place,” the High Commissioner said.

Türk added that Israel had not provided clear reasons for “such extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure”.

His comment came as Israeli forces stepped up airstrikes in Rafah on the border with Egypt, which is now home to more than a million Palestinians displaced by its war against the militant group, Hamas.

Israel is preparing a ground offensive in the southern city, despite warnings from the United States and the United Nations of catastrophic consequences for Palestinian civilians.

The US, Israel’s main ally, on Thursday said it did not support an ground operation in the city, warning that if not properly planned, it risked “disaster”.

In a rare rebuke, US President Joe Biden, said Israel’s military response to Hamas’ 7 October attack had been excessive and should stop.

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said news of the coming Israeli push into Rafah was "alarming", and warned it "would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare".

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday rejected Hamas' latest offer for a ceasefire and a return of hostages, and vowed to press ahead with the military offensive.

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