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Israel-Gaza war live: UK foreign secretary says major Rafah offensive would be wrong ‘without a plan to protect people’ | Israel-Gaza war

UK’s foreign secretary opposes major offensive in Rafah without plan to protect civilians

The UK’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, has said it would be wrong for Israel to carry out a major offensive in the southern Gazan city of Rafah “without a plan to protect people”.

Asked whether it would be wrong to begin an incursion, Cameron told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News:

That’s right, without a plan to protect people. For there to be a major offensive in Rafah, there would have to be an absolutely clear plan about how you save lives, how you move people out the way, how you make sure they’re fed, you make sure that they have medicine and shelter and everything.

We have seen no such plan … so we don’t support an offensive in that way.

The Israel Defense Forces instructed residents to evacuate central Rafah early on Saturday morning, via leaflets and messages on social media. Analysts said this suggested Israeli forces would advance into the centre of Rafah as early as Sunday, and were likely to continue through the entire city.

Israel has said about 300,000 people have already fled the city in the Palestinian territory since the army urged people to leave. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has ignored pleas from allies and humanitarian agencies that launching an assault on Rafah would lead to mass civilian casualties and an even worse humanitarian crisis.

Cameron, a former Conservative prime minister, also said he was “always pushing” the Israelis on a hostage deal and achieving a pause in the fighting to seek a sustainable ceasefire, but said the real pressure should be on Hamas.

“Hamas have been offered a deal which would release hundreds of prisoners from Israeli jails, that would provide a pause in the fighting to get desperately needed aid into Gaza and they’re not taking that deal,” Cameron said.

Indirect talks in Cairo on a ceasefire and hostage release deal were unsuccessful last week, with both the Israeli and Hamas delegations reportedly leaving.

Izzat El-Risheq, a member of Hamas’ political office in Qatar, said the Hamas delegation had approved an Egyptian-Qatari proposal that included the release of Israeli hostages held captive in Gaza and a number of Palestinians jailed by Israel.

Hamas has blamed Israel for the lack of agreement, and its Al-Aqsa TV’s Telegram account said the group would not make any concessions beyond those in the proposal it had accepted.

Israel has said it is open to a truce, but has rejected demands for an end to the war.

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Key events

In Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city which sits on the Egyptian border, the Kuwaiti hospital said on Sunday it had received the bodies of “18 martyrs” killed in Israeli strikes over the past 24 hours.

Israel has said it will proceed with planned operations in Rafah despite its close allies, including its most powerful, the US, warning that a ground offensive could lead to mass civilian casualties and further deepen the humanitarian crisis.

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Speaking to the BBC, the UK’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, said the UK would not resume funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) before investigations are complete into whether its workers colluded with Hamas.

The agency was investigated over claims that some of its staff had links with Hamas, but the outcome of a probe was enough for other countries such as Canada and Australia to restore their cashflow.

“Well, I’m being more demanding,” Cameron told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, adding that the UK is waiting for the findings of a second report.

He said he wants to see “real undertakings” from Unrwa “that they are going to investigate these things properly, that it won’t happen again, that (they are) changing their procedures and everything else, because you can’t expect us to pile back in and start funding an organisation when some of its own workers were involved on 7 October.”

In March, Israel announced it would no longer approve Unrwa food convoys to the north of Gaza, where the threat of famine is highest. The decision came after the agency was accused by the government of collaborating with Hamas in Gaza. Unrwa denies the charge and says no solid evidence has been presented to support the allegation.

Its staff have faced a systematic campaign of obstruction and harassment by the Israeli military and authorities, as revealed in internal UN documents seen by the Guardian.

The accusations by Israel led many donor countries, including its leading donor, the US, to abruptly suspend funding to the agency, threatening its efforts to deliver desperately needed aid in Gaza, although several have since resumed payments.

An independent review of the Unrwa, led by the French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found some “neutrality-related issues” but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its chief allegations.

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UK’s foreign secretary opposes major offensive in Rafah without plan to protect civilians

The UK’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, has said it would be wrong for Israel to carry out a major offensive in the southern Gazan city of Rafah “without a plan to protect people”.

Asked whether it would be wrong to begin an incursion, Cameron told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News:

That’s right, without a plan to protect people. For there to be a major offensive in Rafah, there would have to be an absolutely clear plan about how you save lives, how you move people out the way, how you make sure they’re fed, you make sure that they have medicine and shelter and everything.

We have seen no such plan … so we don’t support an offensive in that way.

The Israel Defense Forces instructed residents to evacuate central Rafah early on Saturday morning, via leaflets and messages on social media. Analysts said this suggested Israeli forces would advance into the centre of Rafah as early as Sunday, and were likely to continue through the entire city.

Israel has said about 300,000 people have already fled the city in the Palestinian territory since the army urged people to leave. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has ignored pleas from allies and humanitarian agencies that launching an assault on Rafah would lead to mass civilian casualties and an even worse humanitarian crisis.

Cameron, a former Conservative prime minister, also said he was “always pushing” the Israelis on a hostage deal and achieving a pause in the fighting to seek a sustainable ceasefire, but said the real pressure should be on Hamas.

“Hamas have been offered a deal which would release hundreds of prisoners from Israeli jails, that would provide a pause in the fighting to get desperately needed aid into Gaza and they’re not taking that deal,” Cameron said.

Indirect talks in Cairo on a ceasefire and hostage release deal were unsuccessful last week, with both the Israeli and Hamas delegations reportedly leaving.

Izzat El-Risheq, a member of Hamas’ political office in Qatar, said the Hamas delegation had approved an Egyptian-Qatari proposal that included the release of Israeli hostages held captive in Gaza and a number of Palestinians jailed by Israel.

Hamas has blamed Israel for the lack of agreement, and its Al-Aqsa TV’s Telegram account said the group would not make any concessions beyond those in the proposal it had accepted.

Israel has said it is open to a truce, but has rejected demands for an end to the war.

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The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) has described the “forced” displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza’s southern city of Rafah as “inhumane”.

The relief agency, which has been supporting the Palestinian territories since 1950, said there is “nowhere safe” left to go for civilians seeking safety and shelter in the enclave.

Over the last week, @UNRWA estimates around 300,000 people have now fled #Rafah, as the forced and inhumane displacement of Palestinians continues.

There is nowhere safe to go.

There is nowhere safe to go.

There is nowhere safe to go. pic.twitter.com/sPnmblvg47

— UNRWA (@UNRWA) May 12, 2024

Israel called on Saturday for Palestinians in more areas of Rafah to evacuate and head to what it calls an expanded humanitarian area in al-Mawasi, a narrow strip of coastline at the southernmost end of the territory designated as a “humanitarian zone” by the Israeli military.

There are grave concerns for the security of those fleeing to the “expanded humanitarian zone”, which is packed with hundreds of thousands of displaced people who have, according to aid workers, overwhelmed entirely inadequate supplies of food, clean water and healthcare. Sanitation barely exists, leading to the rapid spread of disease.

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Residents said Israeli warplanes and artillery struck across the Jabaliya refugee camp, in northern Gaza (see earlier post at 08.43), and the Zeitoun area east of Gaza City, where Israeli troops have been fighting Hamas for over a week. Israel has called on tens of thousands of people to relocate to nearby areas.

“It was a very difficult night,” Abdel-Kareem Radwan, a 48-year-old Palestinian from Jabaliya, told the Associated Press. He said they could hear intense and constant bombing since midday Saturday. “This is madness.”

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UN chief says it ‘will be a long road back from devastation and trauma of war in Gaza’

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has reiterated his calls for an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war in Gaza, but said it would be a “long road back from the devastation” of the conflict even when the fighting had stopped.

Speaking in a video address to an international donors’ conference in Kuwait, Guterres said:

I repeat my call, the world’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid.

But a ceasefire will only be the start. It will be a long road back from the devastation and trauma of this war …

The war in Gaza is causing horrific human suffering, devastating lives, tearing families apart and renderi.ng huge numbers of people homeless, hungry and traumatised.

His comments came as Israeli strikes on Gaza continued on Sunday after it expanded an evacuation order for Rafah despite international outcry over its military incursion into eastern areas of the city, which has effectively shutting a key aid crossing.

More than a hundred thousand Palestinians fled Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, on Saturday. The total is now more than 280,000, according to a count by UN officials.

The closure of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt, the difficulties of reaching the Kerem Shalom crossing because of the fighting, a lack of transport because of fuel shortages and the flight of key workers mean almost no aid is reaching southern and central Gaza.

Humanitarian organisations have been the only source of food and medical services for much of the city’s population for many months but are now shutting down services

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Israeli military intensifies bombardment of Jabalia refugee camp – reports

Al Jazeera is reporting that the Israeli military has intensified the bombardment of north Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, destroying residential houses and attacking evacuation centres.

The outlet says Israel has been targeting the camp with drones and has reported, alongside Wafa news agency, that several Palestinians have been killed and injured. An exact death toll has not yet been given. The claims have not been independently verified.

Imad Abu Zayda, an emergency doctor in Jabalia, spoke to Al Jazeera about the worsening humanitarian situation in the area amid the reported Israeli airstrikes.

“No light due to the lack of fuel and there’s no medical supplement available as Israel has expanded their operation in the area. We have no oxygen to give to patients,” he said.

“Most of the injuries are children and women. We are operating with minimum facilities.”

Palestinians from the Jabalia refugee camp migrate to areas they consider safer. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

The Israeli military issued evacuation orders to residents of the Jabalia refugee camp on Saturday, telling them to leave “immediately” so it could root out Hamas militants.

Earlier, the Israel Defense Forces had instructed residents to leave some areas of northern Gaza. It said they should “temporarily evacuate to shelters in western Gaza City”.

Jablia is the largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight cinder-block refugee camps – which date to the 1948 war of Israel’s founding.

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Opening summary

Welcome to our latest live coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza and the wider crisis in the Middle East. Here’s a snapshot of the latest key developments.

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Saturday demanding that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government do more to secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Some protesters blocked a main highway in the city before being dispersed by police, who used water cannons to push back the crowd, Reuters reported. At least three people were arrested.

Family members of the hostages, carrying pictures of their loved ones still in captivity, joined the crowds that demonstrated in Tel Aviv.

Israeli police use water cannons during the demonstrations in Tel Aviv on Saturday. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Israel launched strikes on across Gaza on Sunday after it expanded an evacuation order for the territory’s southernmost city of Rafah, in a further indication the military is pressing ahead with its plans for a ground attack.

Gaza’s civil defence agency said two doctors were killed on Sunday in the central town of Deir al-Balah, while Agence France-Presse correspondents reported intense clashes and heavy gunfire from Israeli helicopters near Gaza City in the north.

More than 100,000 Palestinians fled Rafah on Saturday, with roads leading out of city choked with long columns of people – many on foot and carrying their belongings – while witnesses said Israel carried out airstrikes in the city near the crossing with Egypt.

In other news:

  • The Israeli military’s new evacuation instructions suggest a coming offensive will take its forces into the centre of Rafah and on to a likely advance through the whole city. Israeli tanks were positioned on Saturday on Salahuddin Road, which divides central Rafah from the already evacuated eastern neighbourhoods, witnesses said.

  • Israel’s attacks on Saturday came as the UN warned an outright invasion of Rafah risked an “epic” disaster. Agence France-Presse journalists, medics and witnesses reported strikes across the strip. At least 21 people were killed during attacks in central Gaza and taken to al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah city, a hospital statement said.

  • Hamas on Saturday accused Israel of “expanding the incursion into Rafah to include new areas in the centre and the west of the city”. The Israeli army said troops were fighting “armed terrorists” at the Rafah crossing and had found “numerous underground tunnel shafts”.

  • Israel said 300,000 people had fled Rafah since receiving army warnings on Monday of an imminent military operation. Many have been displaced many times as they have fled successive Israeli offensives across Gaza. The people of Rafah were “exhausted, degraded, humiliated” after days of “relentless” bombardment, an official with the UN relief agency for Palestinians refugees (Unrwa) said.

  • The Biden administration is offering Israel “valuable assistance” in an attempt to stave off a full-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah, according to a report in the Washington Post. Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected US pressure to hold off an attack on Rafah, saying Hamas has based most of its top leaders and remaining forces there.

  • The closure of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt, and the difficulties in reaching the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel because of the fighting, mean limited aid is reaching southern and central Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) seized the Rafah border crossing with Egypt last week in what it said was a “precise, targeted operation”; since then, prices for some basic necessities have soared. Though the Kerem Shalom crossing is open, it is too dangerous for aid agencies to collect supplies crossing from Israel.

  • Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on the entry of aid into Gaza from the Rafah crossing, citing Israel’s “unacceptable escalation”, Egyptian media has reported. Red Crescent sources in Egypt reportedly said shipments had completely halted.

  • Hamas’s armed wing said the British-Israeli hostage Nadav Popplewell died of injuries sustained in an Israeli airstrike more than a month ago. Popplewell, 51, was a captive taken from kibbutz Nirim and a video previously showed him displaying visible signs of physical abuse.

  • At least 34,971 Palestinians have been killed and 78,641 injured in Israel’s military offensive on Gaza since 7 October, the Gaza health ministry said on Saturday.

  • US President Joe Biden said on Saturday a ceasefire would be achieved “tomorrow” if Hamas released the hostages. According to Israeli authorities, 128 individuals are reported to remain in captivity within the Palestinian territory, with 36 confirmed as dead. Israeli officials told the Ynet news site that hostage and ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas had not completely broken down. Indirect talks would resume “if there are answers from Hamas that we can work with”, the officials told the site. Hamas said on Friday that efforts to find a deal on a truce were back at square one after Israel rejected a plan from international mediators

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