Israel intends to invade the southern Gaza Strip by land, in Rafah, the head of the Israeli government, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced just now.

The operation could begin at any time.

The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] chief of staff opposed the plan, but Netanyahu called for the mobilization of reserve soldiers [who must] be ready to carry it out.

Egypt has warned Israel that in the event of an invasion of Rafah, it would suspend the peace treaty that has linked the two countries since 1979.

To prevent a large influx of refugees, Cairo has positioned around 40 tanks near the Gaza border for two weeks.

More than a million Palestinians are in the extreme south of the Strip: the majority of them are people displaced from other parts of Gaza, including over 600,000 children.

We are faced with the catastrophe befalling the Palestinian people, while the UN and its member nations stand by and watch.

Despite growing warnings from humanitarian agencies and the international community that an attack on Rafah would be an “unprecedented catastrophe”, Netanyahu reiterated his intention to extend the Israeli military operation against Palestine – saying that a new advance in Rafah would “blow up” the ongoing negotiations and return the hostages in exchange for a ceasefire.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock posted on Telegram on Saturday: “An offensive by the Israeli army on Rafah would be a huge humanitarian catastrophe,” adding, “The people of Gaza cannot disappear into thin air.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said any ground offensive would have “disastrous consequences”, while Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry warned of “very serious repercussions if they stormed and targeted” Rafah, and called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he was “deeply concerned” about the potential offensive, adding: “The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get help and free the hostages.”

British opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer said: “There are over 1.4 million Palestinians displaced in Rafah and it is the gateway to aid for Gaza – an Israeli offensive there would be catastrophic. The fighting must stop now. We need a sustainable ceasefire.”

Israel’s plans for Rafah have unusually drawn fierce criticism even from the United States, the Israeli state’s most important ally, after days of growing friction between Netanyahu and the Biden administration.

But Netanyahu dismissed the concerns in the ABC interview, saying: “Those who say that under no circumstances should we go into Rafah are saying: ‘Lose the war. Keep Hamas there.’”

If Israel were to proceed with its invasion plans in the southern Gaza Strip, in addition to an unprecedented catastrophe for the poor Palestinian people, it would also mark the beginning of a chapter that would affect millions of lives, both in the Middle East and elsewhere, for the years to come, and would also open up a very dangerous scenario of widening the conflict.