France on Sunday joined numerous European countries in expressing concern over the looming Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.
"Rafah is today a place where more than 1.3 million people are taking refuge. It is also a vital crossing point for delivering humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza. A large-scale Israeli offensive in Rafah would create a catastrophic humanitarian situation of a new and unjustifiable dimension. To avoid disaster, we reiterate our call for an end to the fighting," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Reiterating that Israel must take concrete measures to protect the lives of civilian populations in Gaza, the ministry added: "In Gaza, as everywhere else, France opposes any forced displacement of populations, prohibited by international humanitarian law."
"The future of the Gaza Strip and its inhabitants can only be found in a Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel," it added.
On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to submit a dual plan to evacuate Palestinian residents from Rafah, home to more than 1 million residents seeking refuge from war, and to defeat the remaining "Hamas battalions."
Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah as Israel pounded the rest of the enclave following an Oct. 7 incursion by the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas. The ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed more than 28,000 victims and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities.
The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza's population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.
In late 2023 South Africa filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Israel of failing to uphold its commitments under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The UN court, in its interim ruling in January, ruled that South Africa's claims are plausible. It ordered provisional measures for Israel's government to desist from genocidal acts, and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.