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UN warns of 'massive loss of life' and 'atrocity crimes' if Israel moves in on Rafah

Katie Balevic   

UN warns of 'massive loss of life' and 'atrocity crimes' if Israel moves in on Rafah
  • The UN warns of 'atrocity crimes' if Israel moves in on Rafah, where over a million are sheltering.
  • Israel has already conducted strikes in Rafah, including one that hit a residential building.

The United Nations warned of increased "atrocity crimes" if Israel moves forward with an assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.

The stark warning came as Israeli forces prepare for an assault on Rafah, where well over a million people are sheltering as international aid groups warn of mass displacement, disease, and starvation.

"We fear that this already catastrophic situation may slide deeper into the abyss as many Palestinians mark the holy month of Ramadan — a period that is meant to honor peace and tolerance — should Israel launch its threatened military offensive into Rafah, where 1.5 million people have been displaced in deplorable sub-human conditions," said Jeremy Laurence, the spokesperson from the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Any ground assault on Rafah would incur massive loss of life and would heighten the risk of further atrocity crimes. This must not be allowed to happen," Laurence added.

Israeli forces struck a Rafah residential building housing 300 families, NBC News reported on Saturday. One resident told NBC News they were given a 30-minute warning to evacuate the building.

Some fear the assault could move forward while Americans are watching the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday evening. In February, Israel conducted a devastating offensive in Rafah as Americans watched the Super Bowl. Israeli authorities said the offensive freed two hostages, while officials in Gaza said nearly 70 people were killed, according to The New York Times.

In his remarks, Laurence condemned extreme violence from both sides of the conflict, calling violations of international law "a stain on the collective conscience of humanity."

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