Israel faces global outcry over Rafah strike that set tent city ablaze - Politics | PoFo

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Israel faced a wave of international condemnation Monday over a strike that Gaza officials said killed 45 people when it set off a fire that ripped through a tent city for displaced Palestinians.

Israel said it was looking into the "tragic accident" and its impact on civilians after the latest mass casualty event in the Gaza war, which has raged since October 7.

Adding to already heightened tensions since Israel launched a ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in early May, the Israeli and Egyptian militaries reported a "shooting incident" Monday that killed one Egyptian guard in the border area between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip.

Both forces said they were investigating.

Israel's military said Sunday evening's attack in the southern Rafah area had targeted and killed two senior Hamas operatives -- but it also sparked a fire that Palestinians and many Arab countries condemned as a "massacre".

A US National Security Council spokesperson said Israel "must take every precaution possible to protect civilians".

The Israeli military said it was launching a probe.

"There is no safe place in Gaza. This horror must stop," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres posted on social media, as diplomats said the UN Security Council will convene Tuesday in an emergency session to discuss the attack.

Displaced Gazan Khalil al-Bahtini was preparing to leave the impacted area, telling AFP Monday that "last night, the tent opposite to ours was targeted."

"We have loaded all our belongings, but we don't know where to go."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government was investigating the "tragic accident" which he told parliament occurred "despite our best efforts" to protect civilians.

Relatives of captives held in Gaza, who have increased pressure on Netanyahu's government demanding action to secure a hostage release deal, heckled him from the public gallery as he was speaking, and raised posters of their loved ones.

Israel launched the attack on Rafah late Sunday, hours after Hamas unleashed a barrage of rockets at the Tel Aviv area, most of which were intercepted.

Israel's army said its aircraft "struck a Hamas compound in Rafah" and killed Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar, senior officials for the militant group in the occupied West Bank.

Gaza's civil defence agency said the strike ignited a fire that tore through a displacement centre in northwestern Rafah near a facility of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

"We saw charred bodies and dismembered limbs ... We also saw cases of amputations, wounded children, women and the elderly," said civil defence agency official Mohammad al-Mughayyir.

One survivor, a woman who declined to be named, said: "We heard a loud sound and there was fire all around us. The children were screaming."

- 'Dangerous violation' -

Footage from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society showed chaotic nighttime scenes of paramedics racing to the attack site and evacuating the wounded.

Mughayyir said the rescue efforts were hampered by war damage and the impacts of Israel's siege, which has led to severe shortages of fuel and "water to extinguish fires".

The Israeli attack sparked strong protests from mediators Egypt and Qatar, as well as from other regional governments.

Egypt deplored the "targeting of defenceless civilians", calling it part of "a systematic policy aimed at widening the scope of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip to make it uninhabitable".

Jordan accused Israel of "ongoing war crimes", Saudi Arabia condemned "the continued massacres", and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed "to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable".

Qatar condemned a "dangerous violation of international law" and voiced "concern that the bombing will complicate ongoing mediation efforts" towards a truce.

The African Union chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said on X that "Israel continues to violate international law... in contempt of an ICJ ruling two days ago ordering an end to its military action in Rafah."

The top world court, the International Court of Justice, on Friday ordered Israel to halt any offensive in Rafah and elsewhere that could bring about "the physical destruction" of the Palestinians.

- 'Hell on Earth' -

The war started after the October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,050 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA which has been central to aid operations in the besieged territory during the war, said on X that "with every day passing, providing assistance & protection becomes nearly impossible".

"The images from last night are testament to how Rafah has turned into hell on Earth," he said, citing "heavy movement restrictions", Israeli strikes and Hamas rocket launches, and other "challenges ... that do not allow us to distribute aid".

Dr Suhaib al-Hams, acting director at Rafah's Kuwait Speciality Hospital, said Monday it was now out of service and being evacuated after Israeli shelling hit the gate and "killed two medics".

On Tuesday, Spain, Ireland and Norway are due to formally recognise a Palestinian state -- a step so far taken by more than 140 UN members, but few western powers.

Israel opposes the move and on Monday announced punitive steps against Madrid, ordering its consulate in Jerusalem to stop offering services to Palestinians from June 1.

Condemnation is good but hopefully this will actually get more countries to put pressure on the regime.
To add to this overview report , here are a couple additional articles .

An Israeli strike targeting Hamas leaders in a displaced persons camp in Rafah killed dozens of people on Sunday, drawing global condemnation and heightening concern over the civilian toll in Gaza.

As of Monday afternoon, the number of people killed in the strike in southern Gaza had risen to 45, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, and hundreds were wounded.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said that the strike killed two officials in charge of Hamas’ terror attacks in the West Bank, and was “carried out against legitimate targets under international law.” But the IDF’s lead prosecutor, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, said in a speech on Monday that the military was committed to fully investigating the incident.

“Naturally, in a war with this scope and intensity, difficult events also occur, like the event yesterday night in Rafah, which was very difficult,” she said. “The IDF regrets any harm to noncombatants over the course of the war.”

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “tragic mistake.”

The strike came days after a ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague ordered Israel to halt its invasion of Rafah, which began earlier this month. The ruling, handed down on Friday and condemned by Israel, is unenforceable but is likely to increase pressure on Israel to cease or curb the operation.

Israel says the invasion is necessary to defeat Hamas’ remaining organized military forces in Gaza, but has drawn opposition internationally, including from Israel’s allies, because more than a million civilians had taken refuge in Rafah. Some 800,000 have fled the city since the beginning of Israel’s invasion.

World leaders, including allies of Israel, condemned the strike. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement, “I condemn Israel’s actions which killed scores of innocent civilians who were only seeking shelter from this deadly conflict. There is no safe place in Gaza. This horror must stop.”

In the wake of the strike, the European Union said it would bring back its mission at the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, which it ended in 2007 after Hamas’ military takeover of the territory. On Tuesday, three EU states — Norway, Ireland and Spain — formally recognized the state of Palestine.

“Horrified by news coming out of #Rafah on Israeli strikes killing dozens of displaced persons, including small children,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, calling for adherence to ICJ rulings and human rights law. “I condemn this in the strongest terms. There is no safe place in Gaza.”

The Biden administration issued a statement Monday calling the strike “heartbreaking” and calling on Israel to protect civilians even as it pursues Hamas’ leadership.

“The devastating images following the IDF strike in Rafah last night that killed dozens of innocent Palestinians are heartbreaking,” said a statement by an administration spokesperson.

“Israel has a right to go after Hamas,” the statement added. “But as we’ve been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians.”

The incident also came after Hamas rockets targeted central Israel for the first time in months, and as Israel is preparing to restart negotiations with Hamas over a ceasefire and hostage release deal. Israel’s government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has faced mounting backlash over its approach to the talks, with a lead negotiator reportedly remarking that reaching a deal would be impossible under Israel’s current leadership.

And Gadi Eizenkot, a lawmaker and former IDF chief of staff, reportedly told a parliamentary committee that Israel should pause the war to get the remaining hostages out. More than 120 hostages are estimated to remain in Gaza, with as many as 100 thought to be alive. More than 100 were released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners during a ceasefire in November.

““Just as we stopped for a truce last time, we can suspend the fighting and return to it for as long as it takes to achieve the goals of the war,” Eisenkot reportedly said.

The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas invaded Israel, killing approximately 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. Israel then invaded Gaza, and according to the Gaza health ministry, some 36,000 people have since been killed in the fighting. Israel says roughly a third of that number are combatants. More than 280 IDF soldiers have been killed since the invasion began.Jewish Telegraphic Agency

I am an aid worker, and my work involves supporting the local healthcare system and providing aid to communities around me. But like everyone in Gaza, I am also simply trying to survive. Until recently, I was sheltering and working in Rafah. I was forced to flee there from Khan Younis with my family, after the area was designated as a “humanitarian safe zone”. Yet it was not long until the Israeli military began its invasion of Rafah, and we were forced to move again after Israel’s evacuation orders.

The situation in Rafah is now utterly chaotic. People do not know where to move to, and are terrified of going somewhere else that will get bombed. Just days after the international court of justice ordered Israel to halt its military offensive there, the Israeli army fired missiles at a tent encampment in a “safe zone” of west Rafah, killing at least 45 Palestinians and injuring dozens more. This news was followed by shocking and abhorrent images showing burned and dismembered bodies, including those of children. On Tuesday, more Israeli army airstrikes reportedly killed 21 displaced Palestinians in al-Mawasi, another so-called safe zone, where Israeli authorities had apparently told Palestinians to flee.

As I write this, Israeli soldiers and tanks are advancing deeper into Rafah while Palestinians, scared for their lives, have nowhere to go.

I had already been displaced eight times with my family, and we had to weigh up our options. It is an incredibly difficult decision to flee with your family, and you must think about whether you should move, as you were told the place you are in was safe. The time to make a decision is very short. You are forced to leave belongings behind and never know where you will be going next. I am now in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, where about 1 million people have fled from Rafah in the past three weeks. We were told this was a safe humanitarian area, but we hear bombing and shooting happening all around us. There is no access to shelter, hygiene kits or dignity kits for displaced families here, and overcrowding has resulted in a shortage of tents.

This chaos makes providing medical care to people unfathomably challenging. Since October, Israel’s indiscriminate military bombardment of Gaza has put 20 hospitals out of service. Now, only 16 are partly functional, and this could change again by tomorrow. All medical facilities lack critical supplies, staff and medicine, and are operating at breaking point.

On Monday, two medical staff were killed by an Israeli tank at the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah, which has now been forced out of service. Field hospitals in western Rafah, set up to treat the huge influx of injured people, including the Indonesian field hospital, have also now been forced to close.

Healthcare workers and injured patients have even been trapped in hospitals across Gaza. Israeli military action has made it incredibly difficult for ambulances to move or reach patients, and I have heard reports from medical workers of Israeli quadcopters (small armed drones) targeting ambulances. No one is safe from attack.

Think for a minute about what it means to have to quickly evacuate a hospital. You must shut down services and there is chaos as often the hospitals are under siege or bombardment, with floods of people desperate to get medical care, support their loved ones or find shelter. You have to move patients who are critically ill, often without an ambulance, and then they are put at risk of attacks by snipers, drones or airstrikes. The lack of communication makes it difficult to even tell people where they should take injured people instead. As a result, more people are killed.

This health and humanitarian disaster has been compounded by Israel’s closure of the Rafah crossing for more than three weeks, effectively strangling the entry of much-needed food and medical aid. My colleagues in northern Gaza tell me that there is now only one functioning hospital there, which could shut down any day due to a lack of fuel.

The border closure means medical staff cannot enter, and hundreds of critically ill and injured patients who need medical treatment outside are trapped in Gaza. There is currently no burns unit in Gaza, as well as extremely limited cancer and dialysis treatment and maternity care services. If Israel does not let adequate amounts of aid in again, more civilians will die, and in painful ways without proper treatment.

The uncertainty and fear of danger is a constant stress; we are all terrified and exhausted. Nobody knows where to go or what to do. As an aid worker, I would love to be able to properly conduct my work and help the lives of people in need. This is not possible. It will never be possible until we have an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

We are witnessing new levels of inhumanity in Rafah, and these will be repeated until Israel complies fully with the international court of justice’s orders and halts its military offensive.

Mohammed Al Khatib is a senior programme manager for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) in Gaza. This article was co-produced with his colleagues in London, based on WhatsApp messages and voice notes. The situation on the ground in Rafah is rapidly changing. This article was written on 28 May with the information that Mohammed had at the time. The Guardian
Amid global outrage over Israel’s devastating attack near a tent camp in Rafah that killed at least 45 displaced Palestinians, Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday reportedly hit another displacement camp killing at least 21 people.

Reuters reported that the Tuesday attack occurred in an evacuation area in Al-Mawasi, west of Rafah, where Israeli officials had advised Palestinians to move for their safety. As of Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Israeli military told Reuters that officials were “not aware of this incident”; the Israeli military later denied the attack. But witnesses told Reuters they spotted Israeli tanks and armored vehicles with machine guns in central Rafah. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Tuesday afternoon that American officials had not yet been able to verify those reports.

The latest reported incident comes after the Sunday bombing of an area near a tent camp in western Rafah that killed at least 45 people. Harrowing videos from the scene that circulated on social media showed fire engulfing the tents and charred bodies being pulled from the flames. In one video, an adult is seen holding up what appeared to be a toddler missing multiple body parts. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Sunday incident the result of “a tragic mishap” but offered no signs of slowing down Israel’s assault on Rafah. The Israeli military said the strike was targeted and struck a compound about a mile from a humanitarian zone, and that it killed two senior Hamas militants.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces said the deaths of civilians occurred due to an “unexpected and unintended” fire that broke out following the airstrike “for reasons that are still being investigated.”

Those explanations were insufficient for several world leaders and humanitarian groups. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attacks, which he said “killed scores of innocent civilians who were only seeking shelter from this deadly conflict.”

“There is no safe place in Gaza,” Guterres added. “This horror must stop.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged” by the Sunday attacks and that “these operations must stop.”

The International Rescue Committee also condemned the attacks and alleged they violated international humanitarian law.

American officials have been comparatively more muted, with some wondering how Sunday’s attack would square with President Biden’s pronouncement earlier this month that he would stop sending weapons to Israel if it proceeded with a major ground invasion in Rafah. (That threat quickly proved meaningless, given that the Biden administration announced last week it was beginning a process to attempt to send another $1 billion in weapons to Israel.)

As of Tuesday afternoon, Biden does not appear to have publicly addressed the deadly attacks on civilians in and near Rafah’s tent camps. A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. At Tuesday’s press conference, reporters pressed Miller, the State Department spokesperson, for more clarity on what actions by Israel, exactly, would constitute Biden’s so-called red line that would lead him to stop sending weapons.

“Is there actually a red line?” one reporter asked. “Do you have a yardstick by which you measure a red line that Israel may cross?”

Miller responded by referring to comments that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had made last week in which Sullivan said “there’s no mathematical formula.”

“What we’re going to be looking at,” Sullivan said last week, “is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation or if it is more precise and proportional.”

Today, reporters at the State Department briefing sought a clearer answer.

“So in theory,” the reporter who asked about the red line continued, “Israel can strike anywhere, basically, and say, ‘there are Hamas operatives?'”

“I’m not going to deal with your theories,” Miller replied. “I’m going to deal with reality.”

Miller added that US officials would continue to monitor the situation in Gaza and that “we will continue to impress to [Israel] the importance of conducting legitimate operations that go after Hamas in a way that minimizes civilian harm.” He added that so far, Israel’s attacks in and near Rafah are not “on the scale” of previous incursions they conducted earlier in the war, including in Khan Younis, which Israeli forces invaded in December and destroyed more than half of buildings, according to the Associated Press. Miller also said U.S. officials will push Israeli officials to investigate what led to the deadly Sunday strikes and make their findings public.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh also declined to specify a “red line” when a reporter asked on Tuesday if the Department of Defense has one. Singh also said she does not know if U.S.-provided weapons were used in the Sunday airstrike.

The US’s continued support for Israel, despite the deepening humanitarian crisis, comes amid a series of international court developments seeking to hold Israel accountable for the devastation. Last week, the top U.N. court ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah, and International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes. Earlier this year, the International Court of Justice also ruled that a case brought by South Africa alleging Israel is committing genocide in Gaza will go forward and that, in the meantime, Israel must take steps to prevent genocide and get more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Despite all this, Biden continues to have Bibi’s back. The State Department has also come under fire from humanitarian aid groups after concluding in a delayed report released earlier this month that Israel was not restricting the flow of U.S. aid into Gaza, which more than 20 aid groups said was contrary to what their representatives had witnessed on the ground.

But as my colleague Noah Lanard has written, if Biden was serious about ending the war in Gaza, several concrete steps, including the restriction of arms transfers and military aid, are available to the president. In the meantime, as the past couple of days have shown, it’s overwhelmingly Palestinian children and innocent civilians who are paying the price of Israel’s war in Gaza.
Mother Jones

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