People inspect debris and rubble in a building heavily damaged by Israeli bombardment, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 11, 2024. — AFP

‘Irresponsible, illegal and inhumane’: Pressure mounts on Israel for Gaza ceasefire following raid in Rafah

Pakistan condemns "resulting destruction and massacre of the Palestinian people" while UN rights chief urges world powers to “restrain rather than enable” the military operation.
Published February 13, 2024

Israel faces growing international pressure to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, as it prepared for an incursion in the southern Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million Palestinians are trapped.

After rejecting Hamas’ terms for a truce last week, Israel conducted a predawn raid in Rafah on Monday that freed two hostages and killed around 100 people.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the operation that freed Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Luis Har, 70, as “perfect”, while the Palestinian foreign ministry said the deaths of dozens of Gazans amounted to a “massacre”.

The rare rescue mission came hours after the Israel premier spoke with US President Joe Biden, who reiterated his opposition to a major assault on Rafah.

Netanyahu rebuffed Israel’s key ally, insisting that “complete victory” cannot be achieved without the elimination of the militants’ last battalions in Rafah.

Listed below are the countries and organisations that have voiced their concern and urged Israel to not proceed with its planned offensive in the overcrowded area of Rafah.


Pakistan has condemned Israel’s “military aggression against Rafah city in Gaza and the resulting destruction and massacre of the Palestinian people”.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “Israel’s offensive in Rafah violates the provisional measures indicated by the International Court of Justice to protect the people of Gaza from “genocide”.

“It will further aggravate the humanitarian disaster witnessed in Gaza over the last four months and jeopardise the ongoing efforts for a potential ceasefire,” the FO warned.

Pakistan urged the “international community, especially the UN Security Council, to take urgent measures to bring an immediate end to Israeli aggression and its incessant crimes against humanity”.

Interim Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani termed Israel’s bombing in Rafah “deplorable and a grave violation of international law and human rights”.

“Pakistan condemns these acts of violence against innocent Palestinians and calls for an immediate ceasefire. The world cannot afford to look away,” he said in a post on X.

United Nations

The United Nations said the prospect of a full Israeli incursion into Rafah was “terrifying” and risked an “extremely high” number of casualties.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk urged world powers to “restrain rather than enable” the military incursion.

“A potential full-fledged military incursion into Rafah — where some 1.5 million Palestinians are packed against the Egyptian border with nowhere further to flee — is terrifying, given the prospect that an extremely high number of civilians, again mostly children and women, will likely be killed and injured,” Turk said in a statement.

“Sadly, given the carnage wrought so far in Gaza, it is wholly imaginable what would lie ahead in Rafah.

“Beyond the pain and suffering of the bombs and bullets, this incursion into Rafah may also mean the end of the meagre humanitarian aid that has been entering and distributed with huge implications for all of Gaza, including the hundreds of thousands at grave risk of starvation and famine in the north.”

European Union

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged allies of Israel, primarily the United States, to stop sending it weapons as “too many people” are being killed in Gaza.

Pointing to Biden’s comment last week that Israel’s military action was “over the top”, Borrell said: “Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people have been killed.”

“Is (it) not logical?” he asked, in a Brussels news conference alongside Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA whom Israel is pressuring to resign.

“How many times have you heard the most prominent leaders and foreign ministers around the world saying too many people are being killed?” Borrell asked.

The diplomat slammed an order by Netanyahu that more than one million Palestinians sheltering in Rafah need to be “evacuated” ahead of a planned Israeli military operation there. “They are going to evacuate — where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people?” Borrell asked.

In a post on X, he echoed the warning that the offensive could “lead to an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe and grave tensions with Egypt”.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia cautioned against the “very serious repercussions” of Israel “storming and targeting” Rafah.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said Saudi Arabia “affirms its categorical rejection and strong condemnation” of the “forcible deportation” of Gazans.

Renewing its demand for an immediate ceasefire, it said Israel’s “continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law confirms the need for an urgent convening of the UN Security Council”.


Egypt warned of “dire consequences” and a deepening of the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the city.

The Arab nation said in a statement it would “continue its contacts and action with various parties in order to reach an immediate ceasefire, implement the truce and swap hostages and detainees” in Gaza.


China urged Israel to stop its military operation in Rafah “as soon as possible”, warning of a “serious humanitarian disaster” there if fighting did not stop.

“China follows closely the developments in the Rafah area, opposes and condemns actions that harm civilians and violate international law,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

Beijing urged Israel to “stop its military operation as soon as possible, (and) make every effort to avoid innocent civilian casualties, in order to prevent a more serious humanitarian disaster in the Rafah area”.

People stand around craters caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on Feb 12, 2024. — AFP
People stand around craters caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on Feb 12, 2024. — AFP


Japan said it was “deeply concerned” about “reports of an Israeli military operation in Rafah”.

In a statement, its foreign ministry said: “As the humanitarian situation on the ground deteriorates and the number of civilian casualties, including a large number of children, women, and elderly people, continues to rise, it is crucial to improve the humanitarian situation as soon as possible and to secure an environment in which humanitarian assistance activities can be carried out to achieve this.”

It reiterated the importance of protecting civilians and urged “all parties to act in accordance with international law including international humanitarian law, and to act in good faith based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including ensuring humanitarian assistance”.


Malaysia condemned in the “strongest terms the large-scale offensive in Rafah”, terming it an “irresponsible, illegal and inhumane assault”.

In a statement issued by its foreign ministry, it warned that the Israeli operation would “exacerbate tension in the region, and further derail efforts towards immediate cessation of hostilities and permanent ceasefire”.

“Malaysia demands Israel to immediately desist and abide by its obligations under international law. This dastardly military operation clearly vindicates the key goal by the Zionist regime to annihilate the Palestinians from their own land,” it said.

Malaysia emphasised that the Israeli action would be in “clear contempt of the rulings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 26 January 2024 on the six provisional measures”.


Cuba has said the Israeli plan “ignores appeals of international community to observe international humanitarian law and stop the extermination of the Palestinian people”.

In a post on X, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla said, “Bombing of 1.4 million people crowded in an area of 55km² is new evidence of the Israeli genocide in Gaza.”

United States

The United States has angered some Middle East allies by consistently refusing to call for a full ceasefire, with Washington saying that it backs Israel’s drive to defeat Hamas, and calling for shorter pauses with hostage deals instead.

US President Joe Biden said civilians in Rafah “need to be protected”.

“Many people there have been displaced — displaced multiple times, fleeing the violence to the north, and now they’re packed into Rafah — exposed and vulnerable,” he said.

Biden has said his administration was trying to broker a six-week truce and, that while key elements were in place, “gaps” remained.

Once the warring parties agree to the ceasefire, “something more enduring” could be broached, the US president said.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders urged against continuing US military aid to Israel.

“No one in Congress should vote to send $10 billion in military aid to Netanyahu’s war machine when they are responsible for an unprecedented humanitarian disaster,” he said in a post on X.

Separately, he told the Congress that US’ military aid to Israel makes Washington directly complicit in the Gaza conflict.

“What is happening in Gaza now is funded with US taxpayer dollars. These are our bombs and our military equipment that is being used.

“We are complicit. This is not just an Israeli war. It is an American war,” Sanders said.


Jordan’s King Abdullah II appealed for a full ceasefire to end the Gaza offensive after talks with Biden, striking a discordant note with the US president who is seeking a shorter six-week pause to give Israel time to defeat Hamas.

Speaking at the White House, the two leaders both warned however against any indiscriminate Israeli ground incursion into Rafah.

“We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah. It is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe,” said the Jordanian monarch.

“We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting ceasefire now — this war must end,” added Abdullah, who has repeatedly pushed for a full truce to end the recent escalation.

Header image: People inspect debris and rubble in a building heavily damaged by Israeli bombardment, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb 11. — AFP