Israeli ground offensive in Rafah could lead to 'slaughter', says UN chief

Israeli solders drive tanks across the border with the Gaza Strip. Credit: AP

An Israeli ground offensive in Gaza's last refuge for fleeing Palestinians could lead to a "slaughter", according to a United Nations aid chief.

Panic is mounting in Rafah as a number of countries scramble to convince Israel to abandon plans of an offensive in the region.

Israel has been bombarding Rafah with airstrikes in recent days and has said that it is committed to a ground operation as the alternative "to surrender to Hamas".

The uncertainty surrounding the potential attack has only added to the anxiety among Palestinians in Rafah, who are unsure on where to go and what to do next.

UN Aid Chief Martin Griffiths warned on Tuesday that such an offensive could lead to “a slaughter” and leave humanitarian efforts in Gaza “at death’s door.”

He urged Israel to listen to the international community’s warnings against “the dangerous consequences” of a ground invasion, saying “history will not be kind” if those calls are ignored.

Airstrikes from Israeli hostage rescue wipes out entire Palestinian family

Ibrahim Hasouna, the sole survivor of his family sits among the debris of his home in Rafah. Credit: AP

Mr Griffith's comments come as one man lost eight members of his family after their home was bombed in Rafah.

Ibrahim Hasouna had been staying with a friend when he heard about the Israeli airstrikes near the house where his family lived.

When he rushed home, he found his entire family dead - his parents, two brothers, a sister-in-law and their three children.

The first thing he saw was a woman's arm that had been hurled across the street - it was his mother's.

At the hospital, he recognised his brother from his clothes and his niece from her earrings.

The airstrikes had been used to provide cover for Israeli troops rescuing two hostages elsewhere in the city of Rafah.

At least 74 Palestinians were killed in the bombardment, which flattened buildings and tents sheltering those who had fled to Rafah from across Gaza.

Among the dead were 27 children and 22 women, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, whose researchers compiled the list from Rafah hospitals.

The ground offensive could impact 1.3 million people

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed the nations military to plan the "evacuation of the population" from Rafah, saying that the Israel Defence Force (IDF) would "soon go into Rafah, Hamas's last bastion".

More than 1.3 million people are packed into a sprawling tent city pressed against the Egyptian border.

Families are already living with severe shortages of food, water, medicine and shelter, and the daily risk of being killed by Israeli fire.

An IDF chief confirmed that plans are in place to evacuate civilians out of harms way and differentiate between them and Hamas militants.

After Monday's rescue, the total number of hostages left in Gaza is 134, according to the IDF's Daniel Hagari.

Israel's campaign in Gaza has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, more than 70% of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The count does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Israel has vowed to uproot Hamas from Gaza and win the return of more than 100 hostages still in the group's hands after the Oct. 7 attacks in which militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel released footage purportedly showing Yahya Sinwar, the mastermind of the Hamas attack on Israel, walking through a tunnel in Khan Yunis.

Yahya Sinwar is Hamas’ top leader inside the Palestinian territory. He is a rarely seen veteran militant who learned fluent Hebrew during his years spent in Israeli prisons - one that the IDF have been desperate to locate and capture.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari stated that "we are determined to capture him - and we will capture him."

In the one minute clip, the man is apparently accompanied by his wife, three children and brother, Ibrahim Sinwar.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…