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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that Israel’s planned army operation in overcrowded Rafah would cause a “humanitarian catastrophe” and called for the United Nations Security Council to intervene.

The kingdom “warned of the extremely dangerous repercussions of storming and targeting” Rafah and affirmed its “categorical rejection and strong condemnation of their forced deportation”, in a foreign ministry statement carried by state media.

“This continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law confirms the necessity of convening the Security Council urgently to prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe,” the statement added.

Aid groups warn of Rafah ‘bloodbath’ if Israel advances

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered the army to prepare to evacuate civilians from Rafah ahead of a planned ground operation against Hamas in the city.

More than one million displaced Palestinians have taken refuge in the city in Gaza’s far south, many sheltering in tents pushed up against the border with Egypt and the sea.

Saudi Arabia has never recognised Israel but had been considering to do so before the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October.

The conflict was triggered by Hamas’ attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a massive military offensive in Gaza that the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 27,947 people, mostly women and children.

Riyadh has repeatedly called for a ceasefire while criticising Israeli “aggression” in Gaza.

While US President Joe Biden’s administration has voiced optimism that Saudi-Israeli normalisation can be revived, Saudi Arabia said this week it had told Washington it would not establish ties with Israel until an independent Palestinian state is “recognised” and Israeli forces leave Gaza.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers warned on Saturday that Israeli operations in Rafah could cause “tens of thousands” of casualties in the city.

The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the move “threatens security and peace in the region in the world” and is “a blatant violation of all red lines”.

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