Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that Israel’s planned army operation in overcrowded Rafah would cause a “humanitarian catastrophe” and called for the United Nations Security Council to intervene.
The kingdom “warned of the extremely dangerous repercussions of storming and targeting” Rafah and affirmed its “categorical rejection and strong condemnation of their forced deportation,” in a foreign ministry statement carried by state media.
“This continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law confirms the necessity of convening the Security Council urgently to prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe,” the statement added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered the army to prepare to evacuate civilians from Rafah ahead of a planned ground operation against Hamas in the city.
More than one million displaced Palestinians have taken refuge in the city in Gaza’s far south, many sheltering in tents pushed up against the border with Egypt and the sea.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers warned on Saturday that Israel’s planned army operation in overcrowded Rafah could cause “tens of thousands” of casualties in the city that has become the last refuge for displaced Palestinians.
The Israeli plan drew condemnation from the office of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
“The Israeli occupation’s move threatens security and peace in the region and the world. This is a blatant violation of all red lines,” it said in a statement.
The US State Department has said it does not support a ground offensive in Rafah, warning that, if not properly planned, such an operation risks “disaster.”
In a sign of growing frustration, US President Joe Biden issued his strongest criticism of Israel yet on Thursday, describing the retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 attack as “over the top.”
Biden said there are “a lot of innocent people who are starving… in trouble and dying, and it’s got to stop.”
But Netanyahu’s office said it would be “impossible” to achieve the war’s objective of eliminating Hamas while leaving four of the militants’ battalions in Rafah.