After four months with Western leaders not only watching in silence, but actively supporting Israel in the terror it has waged on the Palestinian people, it is being reported that there are signs of a growing unease. This sense of unease has taken the form of some of Israel’s allies cautioning against sending ground forces into Rafah. This is an area where approximately 1.5 million people who have been forced to flee their homes are living in the direst of circumstances.

The United Nations has stated the obvious by saying such an attack would be a “nightmare” for the hundreds of thousands of civilians living in tent cities near the border with Egypt.

French Foreign Minister, Stephane Sejourne, says an Israeli assault on Rafah would be “unjustified.” Perhaps not the strongest of warnings, but an indicator of unease.

Biden, Netanyahu’s biggest supporter, whilst still not having the courage to stand up to the Israeli Prime Minister, did warn that an incursion should not go ahead without plans to ensure civilians’ safety. As the population of Gaza has nowhere left to go, they have been pushed from the north to the borders with Egypt, perhaps this is Biden’s cowardly way of saying “enough is enough”.

Surprisingly, Cameron has been one of the most robust. He has said, “We want Israel to stop and think very seriously before it takes any further action…. above all what we want is an immediate pause in the fighting – we want that pause to lead to a ceasefire, a sustainable ceasefire without a return to further fighting. That is what should happen now.”  This is also the position of the Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, who, as well as warning of the catastrophic risk to human life, called for an immediate ceasefire.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, is the only country to issue a stern warning “of very serious repercussions” if Rafah is stormed, whilst the Dutch Foreign Minister, Hanke Bruins Slot, merely echoed the UN “that there would be many civilian casualties as there was nowhere else for the people to go.”

Hamas is clear that these casualties could be in the region of “tens of thousands”. It is also warning that an operation would undermine talks about a possible release of the Israeli prisoners held in Gaza.

However, it looks as though these ‘warnings’ are not being heeded. Netanyahu said the Israeli military will go ahead with its planned ground offensive, insisting an evacuation plan is being prepared. Most people are confused as to the reality of this claim. Gaza is a densely-populated enclave, 41km long and 10km wide, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and fenced off from Israel and Egypt at its borders. “It has simply become uninhabitable”, according to a senior United Nations official. Nearly 2 million people have just been pushed to the edge of the strip. There is nowhere else for them to go.

Meanwhile the terror that the civilians were told they would avoid by leaving their homes and moving to Rafah has started as air strikes killed 67 people in the city two days ago. Israel says it carried out this assault while rescuing two hostages from a building in Rafah. It says Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, are in “good medical condition” which is more than can be said for most of the population.

The sternest warning, though, has come from the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Karim Khan. He said he was “deeply concerned by the reported bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in Rafah,” stressing that, since his last visit to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, he has “not seen any discernible change in conduct by Israel.”

In a post on X, Khan said the ICC was “actively investigating any crimes allegedly committed” in Gaza, adding that “those who are in breach of the law will be held accountable.”

The reality is that, whilst many people dream of the day that Netanyahu and his supporters face justice, the so-called warnings of Western leaders are unlikely to have any impact on the extreme right-wing government overseeing what has been described as a possible genocide by the International Court of Justice.

When members of the Knesset are saying “the children in Gaza have brought this upon themselves”, it is an indication of the fanaticism at the heart of a government that has no regard for the lives of the Palestinian people or the views of their allies. When it is realised that these words were spoken by a so-called liberal centrist, Meirav Ben Ari from the opposition party, the risks are magnified.

Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law highlights the need for effective, unified pressure from Western leaders on Israel.

The responses to the potential Rafah incursion suggest the tide may be turning, but it will need more than gentle admonishments to stop Netanyahu. Only when Western leaders decide to stop providing the weapons being used to murder and maim innocent civilians will there be a chance of the carnage being stopped.

Meanwhile one and a half million people in Rafah are watching and waiting in terror.


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