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Canada says Israeli assault on Rafah would be devastating

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada on Monday joined those urging Israel not to mount a ground invasion against Gaza's southern Rafah neighborhood, saying such an attack would be devastating for Palestinians.

Israel says it plans to assault Rafah, the last relatively safe place in the enclave, to which more than 1 million displaced people have fled. The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the military to evacuate Rafah and destroy four Hamas battalions it says are deployed there.

"I'm very concerned about what's going on in Gaza, in particular in Rafah. The operation would be devastating and is devastating to Palestinians and all those seeking refuge," Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told reporters.

"What the Netanyahu government is asking them to do, which is to leave again, is unacceptable. Because they have nowhere to go and so that's why we need right now for the violence to stop," she said, reiterating Canadian calls for a sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages.

Joly said she would be holding talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Israel has the right to defend itself after the Hamas assault on Oct. 7, but has gradually hardened his tone as the civilian death toll in Gaza has mounted.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Jonathan Oatis)