The United Nations "will not be party" to any forced displacement of Palestinians currently living in Rafah, the spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday, saying there was nowhere safe in Gaza for them to go.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his military to prepare for an offensive in the southern Gaza city, where the UN says roughly 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering after fleeing fighting in other areas of the territory.
The Israel-Hamas conflict was sparked by the Palestinian militant group's October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Netanyahu pledged to provide "safe passage" for civilians out of Rafah, in an interview with ABC News released over the weekend - without specifying where the large number of people massed near the border with Egypt would go.
When asked if the United Nations would participate in such an evacuation mission, Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters the world body wanted to "ensure that anything that happens is done in full respect of international law, in the full respect of the protection of civilians."
"We will not be party to forced displacement of people," Dujarric said. "As it is, there is no place that is currently safe in Gaza."
"You can't send people back to areas that are littered with unexploded ordnance, not to mention a lack of shelter," the UN spokesperson said, referring to parts of the northern and central Gaza Strip.
He reiterated that humanitarian aid entering Gaza is still insufficient, warning that the available supplies "may last us just days."
Last week, Dujarric had already highlighted the need to ensure that the Palestinians massed in Rafah were "protected."
"We would not support in any way forced displacement, which goes against international law," he said.
Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza since the October 7 attack in Gaza. The Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry says the offensive has killed at least 28,340 people, mostly women and children.