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Israel could face war crimes charges if it goes ahead with Rafah invasion

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Published Time: 13.02.2024 - 02:40:13 Modified Time: 13.02.2024 - 02:40:13

The ICC’s chief prosecutor is ‘deeply concerned’ about the potential assault and has said those who take action ‘will be held accountable’ PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/REUTERS The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) warned Israel it could face war crimes charges if it pushes ahead with an invasion of Rafah

The ICC’s chief prosecutor is ‘deeply concerned’ about the potential assault and has said those who take action ‘will be held accountable’

: PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/REUTERS

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) warned Israel it could face war crimes charges if it pushes ahead with an invasion of Rafah.

Karim Khan, a British lawyer, said he was “deeply concerned” about the potential assault on the southern Gazan city where 1.4 million Palestinians are understood to be sheltering, and reiterated that those who commit war crimes “will be held accountable”.

International pressure was mounting on Monday against the planned attack on the last remaining Gazan enclave, with Lord Cameron urging Israel to “stop and think seriously” before taking any further action.

The Foreign Secretary said Britain was “very concerned” after Israel ordered troops on standby to close in on the city, and called again for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

Israel has reportedly proposed creating 15 cities of around 25,000 tents each in Gaza as part of an evacuation plan, suggesting it plans to press ahead with its Rafah offensive.

The plan allegedly put forward by Mr Netanyahu’s government would see Egypt put in charge of setting up the camps and field hospitals with the US and its Arab partners providing the funding, officials told the Wall Street Journal.

Mr Netayahu’s office declined to comment on the proposal and the Egyptian government could not be reached for comment. 

Meanwhile, Volker Türk, the UN’s human rights chief, said the prospect of a military operation where many refugees have already fled from bombs was “terrifying”.

“A potential full-fledged military incursion into Rafah, where some 1.5 million Palestinians are packed against the Egyptian border with nowhere further to flee is terrifying, given the prospect that an extremely high number of civilians, again mostly children and women, will likely be killed and injured”, he said.

His comments came after an Israeli special forces rescue operation in the early hours of Monday morning freed two Israeli-Argentine hostages held by Hamas militants in Rafah. Supporting airstrikes, used as a diversion as the hostages escaped, killed at least 67 people.

Joe Biden, who has warned against launching an operation in the region without an extensive evacuation plan, is considering publicising his frustrations with Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US president is said to have referred to the Israeli leader as an “a--hole” who is impossible to work with and sees him as the main impediment to peace, according to NBC News.

On Monday, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, called on the US and allies to stop sending weapons to Israel as “too many people” were being killed.

“Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people being killed,” Mr Borrell told reporters after a meeting of EU development aid ministers in Brussels.

Mr Borrell pointed to a ruling by a Dutch appeals court on Monday blocking the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over a “clear risk of violations of international humanitarian law” in Gaza.

Aid agencies say an assault on Rafah would be catastrophic. Egypt has reinforced its border with the city, saying it fears Gazans will be pushed across, never to return.

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