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Sweden warns that Israel’s offensive on Rafah risks ‘unacceptable’ consequences; urges Tel Aviv to respect humanitarian law

Sweden urged Israel on Saturday to respect international humanitarian law and warned that Tel Aviv’s military offensive in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, risks “unacceptable” humanitarian consequences.

The comments came after Tel Aviv ordered Palestinians to evacuate eastern Rafah as it intensified a brutal assault in southern Gaza.

“We are concerned to see that an Israeli ground offensive has been launched. The humanitarian needs in Gaza are huge and the supply of humanitarian aid must increase.

“We continue to emphasise the importance of respecting international humanitarian law. It is very important that the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings – which are the main entry routes for humanitarian aid – are kept open,” the Swedish media office of the Foreign Ministry told Anadolu.

Sweden and the EU previously urged Israel not to carry out military operations in Rafah that would exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation, it said.

The Swedish government considers that the priority objective should be continued negotiations for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” leading to the release of hostages and increased access to humanitarian aid, said the office.

Tel Aviv decided earlier this week it would continue with its military onslaught on Rafah despite Hamas agreeing to a cease-fire.

Other EU states continue to urge Tel Aviv to halt military operations in Rafah and demand an immediate cease-fire.

Latvia said Thursday that the Israeli ground operation in Rafah “causes serious concern” as tens of thousands of Palestinians attempted to flee from Rafah.

“The current priority is an immediate humanitarian pause, release of all hostages and provision of humanitarian assistance,” the Foreign Ministry told Anadolu.

Iceland on Tuesday warned that Israeli actions would cause immeasurable suffering for the Palestinian population.

“Iceland urges Israel to halt operations in Rafah, where a large-scale attack would cause immeasurable suffering,” Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir told Anadolu.

“We call on Hamas and Israel to urgently agree to and implement a sustainable ceasefire, ensure humanitarian aid and release of hostages, said the minister, who added that “civilian suffering must stop.”

Norway on Tuesday also called for an urgent cease-fire, warning against an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah.

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide’s comments came after Tel Aviv confirmed it has full “operational control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossings.”

Eide told Anadolu that every attack in Gaza is “a betrayal of Palestinian women and children.”

“A cease-fire means the difference between life and death for many people on both sides of the conflict.

“The short-term goal of such an agreement is to bring an end to the immense suffering in Gaza,” said Eide.

The whole world is watching and expects both parties to demonstrate willingness to reach an agreement, he added.

“Gaza is a man-made disaster. Words cannot describe the suffering and hardship its 2.3 million inhabitants have endured over the past seven months,” he added.

On Monday, Israeli forces asked residents to leave parts of Rafah making it clear that Tel Aviv was proceeding with a brutal assault and ground offensive on the city where a large number of Palestinians sought refuge after being forced to flee other parts of the besieged enclave.

The city’s current population is estimated to be around 1.5 million, and it is unclear where they will seek refuge.

NGOs have warned that the people of Rafah, as well as those who have been displaced from other parts of Gaza, have no other place to go if Israel bombs the city.

Despite warnings from Israel’s allies, including the US, Tel Aviv has insisted that an attack on Rafah will take place.

The Norwegian top diplomat also urged the international community, as well as Israeli and Palestinian authorities, to engage in political dialogue, including moving forward with work for a Palestinian state.

He added that having plans for what happens next is also “crucial” for cease-fire negotiations and humanitarian aid work.

Nearly 35,00 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed and almost 80,000 injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities in Tel Aviv’s onslaught on Gaza.

International organizations, including UN agencies, have demanded a cease-fire in Gaza and increased humanitarian aid access to address medical shortages, hunger, thirst and hygiene deficiencies leading to diseases in Gaza.

The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) said in March that “hunger is everywhere” in Gaza.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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