Australia and Britain warn of ‘devastating’ consequences of Israeli operation in Rafah

Britain and Australia have warned that there would be “devastating consequences” of an Israeli ground invasion in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

A joint statement by the two countries read: “Given the large number of displaced persons taking refuge in the area and lack of safe spaces in Gaza, ministers shared deep concern at the potentially devastating consequences for the civilian population of an expanded Israeli military operation in Rafah.”

The statement comes after Israel’s assertion that such an invasion is crucial to counter Hamas, despite international warnings about the severe implications for the over one million displaced Palestinians in Rafah, amid a five-month-old conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The statement was issued after the defence and foreign secretaries of Britain met with their Australian counterparts in Adelaide.

The defence and foreign secretaries “expressed the urgency of an immediate cessation of fighting in Gaza to allow aid to flow and hostages to be released as a crucial step toward a permanent, sustainable ceasefire”.

It continued: “Ministers support ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve this. Ministers confirmed their commitment to provide increased support for humanitarian relief in Gaza. Ministers reaffirmed both nations’ commitment to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist, in peace and security, based on the 1967 lines, and discussed how recognition might assist in giving momentum toward that goal.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken also reiterated on Thursday that a major Israeli ground assault on the Rafah would be “a mistake”. He added that it would be unnecessary to defeat Hamas.

Mr Blinken is set to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet on Friday.

The UN Security Council plans to vote on a resolution drafted by the US, which advocates for a ceasefire in Gaza on Friday. This action comes as the EU has urged a “humanitarian pause,” intensifying the call for Israel to halt its five-month bombardment of the Palestinian territory.