Germany urges greater protection of civilians in Rafah

germany urges greater protection of civilians in rafah

Displaced Palestinians pack their belongings and tents before leaving an unsafe area in Rafah. — AFP

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday urged greater protection of civilians in Rafah, as the Israeli army intensified its operations around the southern city in Gaza.

Baerbock said in a statement she was "deeply concerned about the Israeli army's current actions in Rafah", and that hundreds of thousands of refugees in the city "no longer have any safe places to flee".

"The protection of the civilian population must have the highest priority," Baerbock insisted.

"This is not visible at the moment."

Israeli forces earlier in May took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

The move into Rafah came despite US warnings that around 1.4 million civilians sheltering there could be caught in the crossfire.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said "600,000 people have fled Rafah since military operations intensified".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has however insisted there was no "humanitarian catastrophe" in the city.

The Israeli premier has vowed to launch a full-scale ground operation in Rafah in a bid to dismantle the remaining battalions of Hamas.

Germany, a close ally of Israel's, would "stand up for Israel's security", Baerbock said.

But Germany's support for Israel also meant "doing everything to ensure Israel does not lose itself in this war", she said.

"We have underlined that military self-defence must be directed at the terrorists of Hamas and not at innocent Palestinian children, women and men."

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