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Palestinians sit amid the destruction from the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah on Monday. Alamy Stock Photo

Rafah crisis: Simon Coveney accuses Israel of 'behaving like a rogue state'

Coveney was speaking as the international outcry over Israel’s planned offensive in Rafah grows.


SIMON COVENEY, THE Minister for Enterprise, has accused Israel of “behaving like a rogue state” as Benjamin Netanyahu’s government presses ahead with plans for a major offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza.

“They’re ignoring the International Court of Justice,” said Coveney, a former foreign affairs minister.

“They seem now to even be ignoring their closest allies in countries like the United States and the UK, who are clearly calling for restraint, looking for the basis of a ceasefire, wanting to work with Israel to bring an end to this savagery that is continuing in Gaza,” he told reporters on the way into this morning’s cabinet meeting.

Coveney’s strong words come after Micheál Martin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, warned that further bombardment of Rafah – where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians, over half the territory’s population, are trapped – would constitute a war crime.

The Irish government has been among the most vociferous western voices in condemning Netanyahu’s Rafah plans. Israel is under mounting international pressure to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, as it prepares for an incursion into the southern Gaza city.

China is the latest superpower to urge Israel to desist “as soon as possible”, warning of a “serious humanitarian disaster”.

“China follows closely the developments in the Rafah area, opposes and condemns actions that harm civilians and violate international law,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

Beijing urged Israel to “to stop its military operation as soon as possible, (and) make every effort to avoid innocent civilian casualties, in order to prevent a more serious humanitarian disaster in the Rafah area”.

Israeli ground operations Reported Israeli ground operations PA PA

Israel conducted a predawn raid in Rafah on Monday that freed two hostages and killed around 100 people, after rejecting Hamas’s terms for a truce last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the overnight operation as “perfect”, while the Palestinian foreign ministry said the deaths of dozens of Gazans amounted to a “massacre”.

The rare rescue mission under heavy air strikes came hours after Netanyahu spoke with US President Joe Biden, who reiterated his opposition to a major assault on Rafah.

Netanyahu ordered the military to prepare a plan to evacuate the population of Rafah ahead of further attacks.

The United Nations has said it is “simply not possible” to do so due to the destruction already caused in Rafah and beyond.

“It’s simply not possible in these circumstances to create any kind of safe evacuation zones in this tiny area that we’re talking about,” Ravina Shamdasani, chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“There’s even public disorder now because the meager humanitarian assistance that’s getting in, desperate people are having to to to loot and to scramble for it.”

The head of Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian agency told AFP that freezing funds to the agency for Palestinian refugees risks “aiding” the deaths of civilians in Gaza.

Several countries – including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan – have suspended funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff members participated in the Hamas attack.

Dismantling the UNRWA would be a disaster, its chief Philippe Lazzarini said today. Pressure rose after Israel said it had found a Hamas tunnel beneath its Gaza headquarters.

He called for an independent investigation once the conflict between Israel and Hamas is over, looking into the tunnel allegations and the destruction of United Nations premises in the Gaza Strip.

Israel described the mandate of the investigation as vague, but said it would cooperate.

‘Catastrophic conditions’

The United Nations has also warned Israel against carrying out a ground offensive into Rafah without a plan to protect civilians, who say they have nowhere left to go.

CIA Director William Burns was due in Cairo today for a new round of talks on a Qatari-brokered ceasefire proposal that would temporarily halt fighting in exchange for Hamas freeing hostages.

His planned visit comes after Washington and the United Nations warned Israel against carrying out a ground offensive into Rafah without a plan to protect civilians, who say they have nowhere left to go.

After White House talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday, US President Joe Biden said civilians in Rafah “need to be protected”.

“Many people there have been displaced — displaced multiple times, fleeing the violence to the north, and now they’re packed into Rafah — exposed and vulnerable,” he said.

With reporting from Valerie Flynn and © AFP 2024.