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Germany urges Israel 'to better protect' civilians in southern Gaza city of Rafah

Anadolu Agency EUROPE
Published February 12,2024
Palestinian children wounded in an Israeli strike rest as they receive treatment at a hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 12, 2024. (REUTERS)

Germany on Monday called on Israel to step up efforts "to better protect" the more than one million civilians in Rafah ahead of its planned military operation in the southern Gazan city.

"Israel must clearly explain where and how these people (in Rafah) can find protection, find effective protection," deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Christian Wagner told a press briefing in Berlin.

"People need to be better and more effectively protected and better and more effectively cared for," he added.

Wagner reiterated that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains "catastrophic."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is scheduled to visit Israel on Wednesday to discuss a likely humanitarian pause in Gaza, according to Wagner.

On Saturday, Baerbock said on X: "Already, the suffering in Rafah is unfathomable. In an extremely confined space 1.3 million people are seeking shelter from the fighting. A large-scale IDF (Israeli army) offensive in Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe in the making. The people of Gaza cannot vanish into thin air.

She added: "Israel must defend itself against Hamas. At the same time it must do whatever it can to alleviate civilian suffering. That's why another humanitarian pause is needed, also to finally get the hostages home. How to get there will be on my agenda when I visit Israel next week."

Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah as Israel has pounded the rest of the enclave since Oct. 7. The ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed more than 28,000 people, mostly women and children, and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

The Israeli war on Gaza forced the internal displacement of 85% of the territory's population 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 an interim ruling in January, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel's government to desist from genocidal acts and to take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.