It is the last remaining stronghold for Hamas fighters in Gaza, according to Israel, after more than four months of conflict triggered by the militant group’s deadly 7 October attack on Israel.
The foreign secretary wrote on Twitter/X: “Deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah – over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering in the area.
“The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire.”
It comes after Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled there would be an imminent invasion of Rafah, saying he had asked the military to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people there.
The plan has raised questions over where civilians could be moved, with Israeli evacuation orders now covering two-thirds of the territory.
On Saturday, at least 44 Palestinians – including more than a dozen children – were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy tweeted on Friday: “1.4 million displaced Palestinians are in Rafah, with nowhere to go. It’s the gateway for aid to Gaza. An Israeli offensive there would be catastrophic. Far too many civilians have already been killed or wounded.
“The fighting must stop now. We need a sustainable ceasefire.”
The leader of the SNP Humza Yousaf has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
Mr Yousaf posted on Twitter/X: “Ireland is right.
“Israel displaced millions of innocent men, women & children to south Gaza.
“They have nowhere to go. Israel’s threatened action in Rafah is indefensible & will cause devastation beyond comprehension. International community must demand an immediate ceasefire.”
Ireland is right.
Israel displaced millions of innocent men, women & children to south Gaza. They have nowhere to go. Israel's threatened action in Rafah is indefensible & will cause devastation beyond comprehension. International community must demand an immediate ceasefire. https://t.co/KZGotu338N
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) February 10, 2024
Tension has risen between Mr Netanyahu and the US, which has warned Israeli forces against expanding its Gaza ground offensive to the southern city.
As the Israeli bombardment has escalated, concerns have been increasing about the plight of Gaza civilians who are enduring shortages of food and medical services.
The latest figures from the Hamas-run health ministry put the overall Palestinian death toll at more than 28,000.
Mr Netanyahu’s plan to attack Rafah came as he also rejected Hamas’s ceasefire proposals.