​A​s its tanks roll into Rafah​, Guterres appeals to Israel to not escalate situation

United Nations, May 7 : UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed to Israel on Monday to stop the escalation of the Gaza conflict as its tanks rolled into Rafah while a temporary ceasefire deal hung in the balance.

“I am disturbed and distressed by the renewed military activity in Rafah by the Israeli Defence Forces,” Guterres said.

“I urge the Government of Israel to stop any escalation, and engage constructively in the ongoing diplomatic talks,” he said.

“A full-scale assault on Rafah would be a human catastrophe,” he said.

The UN chief warned that the incursion into Rafah, “the epicentre of humanitarian operations in Gaza”, will “further upend our efforts to support people in dire humanitarian straits as famine looms”.

Israel said the attack on Rafah was a limited operation against Hamas whose fighters launched a rocket attack on Israel near the Karem Shalom crossing, killing four soldiers and wounding ten on Sunday. lt shut down the crossing, another vital point for aid to enter Gaza.

Israel has threatened a full invasion of Rafah, where most Palestinians inside Gaza are huddled after its invasion of Gaza that forced them to the southern part of the strip abutting Egypt. It asked Palestinian civilians in Rafah to leave it ahead of the planned military operation.

US President Joe Biden and several European leaders have urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against attacking Rafah.

Guterres said: “Even the best friends of Israel are clear: An assault on Rafah would be a strategic mistake, a political calamity, and a humanitarian nightmare.”

The Hamas attack on Israel and the Israeli reaction complicated the diplomacy for a ceasefire promoted by the US, Egypt, and Qatar.

Hamas was reported on Monday to have accepted the terms for a ceasefire after Israel made concessions. The temporary ceasefire was to lead to the release of about 30 of the Israelis taken hostage during the Hamas terrorist attack in October, freeing of some Palestinians held by Israel while staving off – at least for a while – the imminent attack on Rafah.

But the possibility of a ceasefire is clouded by the escalation by both sides.

Guterres said: “It would be tragic if weeks of intense diplomatic activity for peace in Gaza, yield no ceasefire. No release of hostages. And a devastating offensive in Rafah.”

“I reiterate my appeal for both parties to show the political courage and spare no effort to secure an agreement now,” he said.

“This is a crucial opportunity that the region – and indeed the world – cannot afford to miss.”

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