A possible land “invasion” of the Israeli army in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, where the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that it will proceed with a large-scale operation, would be “unbearable”, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization said yesterday, Monday. Antonio Guterres, reiterating his appeal to Israel and Hamas to make the “further effort” needed to strike a cease-fire agreement.

“I have made (…) a very strong appeal to the Israeli government and to the leaders of Hamas to make the further effort necessary to conclude the vital agreement,” he said, echoing statements made by his spokesman earlier after Hamas announced that accepts the proposal of mediators in indirect negotiations.

“This is an opportunity that cannot be missed. A land invasion of the Rafah would be intolerable because of its catastrophic humanitarian consequences and its destabilizing impact on the region,” insisted the Secretary-General speaking to the press as he welcomed the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella.

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas announced on Monday that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal presented to it by mediators, after the start of an Israeli operation to evacuate tens of thousands of civilians from the Rafah sector at the southern edge of the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the proposal was “far from Israel’s central demands”, but added that it would send a delegation to Egypt to “exhaust the chances of reaching an agreement” on a ceasefire.

Before Hamas’s announcement, the Israeli army launched heavy bombardments in the eastern part of the city of Rafah, which has turned into a sprawling IDP camp, after demanding that civilians there leave.

“The hasty removal orders” of the residents of eastern Rafah “will simply increase the suffering of the civilians (…) Making a mass hasty removal of this magnitude is impossible to do in a safe way,” he noted earlier, during a briefing of the accredited editors, the representative of Antonio Guterres, Stéphane Dujarric.

UNICEF, for its part, emphasized in its statement that some 600,000 children trapped in Rafah “have nowhere to go” and are threatened by “a new disaster”.

The war broke out on October 7, when members of Hamas’ military arm based in the Gaza Strip launched an unprecedented raid on southern sectors of the Israeli territory, during which more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, were killed. , according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli data.

Israel’s large-scale retaliatory military operation in the Gaza Strip has so far killed at least 34,735 people, most of them civilians, according to Hamas’ health ministry.