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Mideast nations warn Israel of humanitarian disaster if Rafah invaded

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Israel is facing mounting regional and international pressure over its planned ground offensive in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

Over the past few days, regional countries have warned Israel against a humanitarian meltdown in Rafah if Israeli forces insist on carrying out the ground assault in the city, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are now living, including 1.3 million people who fled from other parts of the coastal enclave.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday he has directed the military to prepare to evacuate civilians from the overcrowded city ahead of an expanded offensive against Hamas.

Netanyahu’s remarks sparked great alarm among regional countries that the plan would further worsen the humanitarian situation already deteriorated since the Israel-Hamas conflict started on October 7 in the besieged enclave.

Qatar, which was engaging in diplomatic efforts along with the United States and Egypt to push for a ceasefire in Gaza between Hamas and Israel, “condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli threats to storm the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.”

It “warns of a humanitarian catastrophe in the city that has become a last refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced people,” said its Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Saturday.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, both having signed peace treaties with Israel in 2020, also expressed deep concern.

Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions” of storming and targeting Rafah, “the last resort” for hundreds of thousands of civilians who had fled from intensive Israeli strikes on cities northward.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed the country’s rejection of forced displacement of Palestinians, warning against what he called Israel’s “systematic policy” to force Palestinians out of their land.

Jordan voiced its categorical rejection of the displacement of Palestinians inside or outside their land, stressing the need to end the conflict and protect civilians.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit warned that Israel’s intentions to impose the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are “serious threats to regional stability.”

On Sunday, in an apparent move to ease external concerns, Netanyahu said in a televised interview with ABC News that a “detailed plan” was being worked out on “providing safe passage for the civilian population, so they can leave” the Rafah city.

But Hamas warned against any Israeli ground operation in the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, saying that it would “blow up” the hostage exchange negotiations, the Hamas-run al-Aqsa TV quoted an unnamed senior Hamas leader as saying.

On the same day, U.S. President Joe Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed unless a plan for “ensuring the safety” of the population was laid out first.

Biden reaffirmed the “shared goal to see Hamas defeated.” He also called for urgent steps to increase the humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.

Despite not yet launching a ground offensive into Rafah, Israel has pounded the city with airstrikes that are part of its massive bombardment on Gaza. On Monday, the Israeli military said it conducted “a series of strikes” on southern Gaza that have now “concluded.”

The death toll of Palestinians from Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip has risen to 28,176 since October 7, 2023, with 67,784 others being injured, the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Source(s): CGTN

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Middle East countries voice concern over military escalation after alleged Israeli attack on Iran

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Countries in the Middle East have voiced their concern over military escalation in the region after Israel on Friday allegedly struck sites near the city of Isfahan, central Iran, in what appeared to be its military response to Iran’s recent retaliatory attack.

In a statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry called on the two sides to exercise the utmost restraint and to fully comply with the rules of international law and the UN Charter, warning against widening the conflict and instability in the region.

Egypt stressed that it will continue to intensify communications with all concerned and influential parties to contain the ongoing escalation and tension.

In addition, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the ministry “is constantly monitoring the tension in the region,” expressing its deep concern about the attack targeting Isfahan on Friday morning.

The ministry said that the escalation must not distract attention from the destruction and loss of innocent lives in the Gaza Strip, renewing its call on the international community to perform its duties and work to stop the suffering of the Palestinian people, according to the statement.

Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi on Friday stressed the need to reduce the dangerous escalation in the region and reiterated that “Jordan will not allow it to be turned into an arena of conflict between Iran and Israel and to endanger its security and the safety of its citizens.”

Safadi, who also serves as the Jordanian foreign minister, added on social media platform X that “the current escalation only serves to divert attention away from the Israeli aggression on Gaza, stopping which must be the priority.”

The Israeli attack came after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed Saturday that it had launched missile and drone attacks on Israel in retaliation for earlier airstrikes by Israel on April 1 on the Iranian consulate building in the Syrian capital of Damascus, which killed seven Iranians.

So far, Israel has not officially acknowledged the strikes on Isfahan, while Iran has not publicly accused Israel of carrying them out.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned the Israeli strikes on Syrian military sites earlier in the day as a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty and a threat to regional stability.

In a statement, the ministry warned that such actions could escalate tensions in the region, potentially leading to a broader conflict, and urged the international community, including the UN Security Council, to condemn the attack and take decisive measures to halt the “crimes” committed by Israel.

In the early hours of Friday, the Israeli military launched a series of airstrikes targeting Syrian air defense sites in the southern region, according to the Syrian Defense Ministry. The strikes caused material losses, while no casualties were reported, it added.

The attack was also confirmed by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported that more than six Israeli aircraft were observed flying intensively in southern Syria.

The radar battalion responsible for monitoring the airspace, located in the east of Syria’s Daraa province, was targeted, the war monitor added.

Source(s): CGTN

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EU, Finnish leaders call for de-escalation amid Iran-Israel tensions

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HELSINKI, April 19 (Xinhua) — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo on Friday urged de-escalation amid Iran-Israel tensions.

They made these comments at a press conference held at southeastern Finland’s Lappeenranta airport on Friday. The event followed a visit to the Finnish eastern border near the town of Imatra.

“We must do everything possible to ensure that all sides refrain from escalating the situation in the region,” said von der Leyen. She emphasized the necessity for stabilizing in the region.

Orpo expressed hope that both sides would avoid retaliatory attacks.

According to local media reports, the purpose of their visit to the eastern border was to inspect a pilot fence, about three kilometers long, built near the Imatra border crossing.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Blinken says U.S. not involved in Israeli attack against Iran

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that he can’t speak to media reports about the details of an Israeli attack against Iran overnight, stressing that the United States was not involved in any offensive operations by Israel.

“The reports that you’ve seen, I’m not going to speak to that, except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” Blinken told a press conference in Italy as he wrapped up a meeting with foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) countries.

He was responding to a reporter’s question seeking confirmation of media reports saying Washington received advance warning from Israel on Thursday of an imminent strike against Iran in retaliation for Tehran’s assault on Israel last week.

“What we’re focused on, what the G7 is focused on, and again, it’s reflected in our statement and in our conversation, is our work to de-escalate tensions, to de-escalate from any potential conflict,” Blinken said in what were first public remarks on the Israeli attack by a cabinet member of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.

What Blinken also refused to address during that round of questions and answers was the White House’s assessment of whether the Israeli strikes were over and if Iran would retaliate.

Earlier on Friday, Iran’s air defense systems shot down several “flying objects” near the central city of Isfahan, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

The Israeli side has not yet made any announcement regarding the attack.

Source(s): CGTN

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