SYDNEY (Agencies) – In response to reports of Israel’s planned military operation in Rafah, the leaders of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand issued a joint statement on Thursday, urgently calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

The prime ministers of the three nations expressed grave concern over indications of Israel’s plans for a ground offensive into Rafah, stating that such a military operation would have catastrophic consequences.

The statement emphasized the urgent need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It came in the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement on Wednesday that Israel would proceed with an offensive against Hamas in Rafah, the final haven for displaced Palestinians in southern Gaza, after permitting civilians to leave the area.

While the statement implored Israel not to carry out the offensive, it also clarified that any ceasefire could not be unilateral. It would necessitate Hamas to disarm and promptly release all remaining hostages.

The leaders further referenced the International Court of Justice’s ruling in a genocide case brought by South Africa in January, which obligates Israel to safeguard civilians and provide essential humanitarian assistance and basic services.

The statement underscored that the protection of civilians is of utmost importance and a mandate under international humanitarian law, adding that Palestinian civilians should not bear the cost of defeating Hamas.

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