Attack on Rafah would be 'nail in coffin' of Gaza aid: UN chief

A full-scale Israeli military operation in Rafah would deliver a death blow to aid programmes in Gaza, where humanitarian assistance remains "completely insufficient", the U.N. chief warned Monday.

Speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Antonio Guterres said that Gaza's southernmost city, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are crowded together in tent cities, was "the core of the humanitarian aid operation" in the Palestinian territory.

"An all-out Israeli offensive on the city would not only be terrifying for more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there; it would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programmes," he said.

His comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated that his country was intent on a ground invasion in Rafah, in its bid for "total victory" over Hamas, whose Oct. 7 attack triggered the war.

He said that once a ground invasion happens, victory would be just "weeks away", and that a potential ceasefire, being discussed in Doha, would only delay the operation.

Hamas took about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,692 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest tally issued Sunday by the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

 'End the bloodshed' 

Guterres stressed Monday that "nothing can justify Hamas's deliberate killing, injuring, torturing and kidnapping of civilians, the use of sexual violence — or the indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israel".

"And nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people," he said.

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