Politics & News

Israeli Airstrikes Kill Dozens in Rafah, Spark Int’l Condemnations

Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 45 Palestinians on Sunday and injured over 200 of displaced people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, Palestinian health and civil emergency service officials said.

The strikes came hours after Hamas targeted Tel Aviv with a barrage of rockets for the first time in months. There were no reports of casualties, reported Reuters.

Rafah Strikes

The spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, Ashraf Al-Qidra, said the attack killed 35 people and wounded dozens, most of them women and children. The Israeli strike hit Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood in western Rafah. Thousands are taking shelter there after they fled the eastern areas of the city as Israeli forces began a ground offensive two weeks ago.

Israeli Airstrikes Kill Dozens in Rafah, Spark Int’l Condemnations
A wounded child after Israeli airstrikes in Rafah

A spokesperson from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the death toll was likely to rise as search and rescue efforts are underway. “Currently, numerous individuals remain trapped under the flames and in the tents destroyed by the bombardment,” he said.

On Monday, Gaza’s officials said the death toll had risen to 45. It said many bodies were “charred” after the strikes triggered a fire that ripped through a displacement center.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the Red Crescent Society confirmed that the location of the strike had been designated by Israel as a “humanitarian area.” It is not included in areas that Israel’s military ordered evacuated earlier this month.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its field hospital in Rafah was receiving an influx of casualties. Other hospitals are receiving patients too. Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri described the attack as a “massacre.” He blamed the US for providing weapons and money to Israel.

Israeli Confirmation

The Israeli military confirmed the strike. It said it struck a Hamas compound in Rafah, killing Hamas’ chief of staff for the West Bank and another senior official.

Israeli Airstrikes Kill Dozens in Rafah, Spark Int’l Condemnations
Damage in Rafah after Israeli airstrikes

It added that it was “aware of reports indicating that as a result of the strike and fire that was ignited several civilians in the area were harmed. The incident is under review.”

Footage from the scene of the largest airstrike showed widespread destruction with a large fire covering the area. One resident said that the airstrikes burnt the tents where people are taking refuge.

In a conference on Monday, Israel’s top military prosecutor called the air strike “very grave” and said an investigation was under way.

Attacking Israel

The attack on Rafah came hours after Hamas fired a salvo of 8 rockets from Gaza. The attack set off air raid sirens across Tel Aviv and central Israel for the first time since January. There were no reports of casualties.

Hamas military wing claimed responsibility for the attack. It said the attack was a response to “massacres against civilians.” Israel’s military said that 8 projectiles were launched from Rafah and crossed into Israel. It added that “a number” were intercepted, and the launcher was destroyed.

Justifying Rafah Operation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his war cabinet later on Sunday to discuss continued operations in Rafah. Israel claims that the UN court’s ruling allows room for some military action there.

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said the rockets fired from Rafah “prove that the (Israeli forces) must operate in every place Hamas still operates from.” Meanwhile, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held an operational assessment in Rafah. He was briefed on “troops’ operations above and below the ground, as well as the deepening of operations in additional areas,” according to a statement by his office.

Israeli Airstrikes Kill Dozens in Rafah, Spark Int’l Condemnations
Damage in Rafah after Israeli airstrikes

Furthermore, the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, urged the army to pursue Rafah operation. He responded to the attack with a post on X that said: “Rafah! With full force!”

Israel has moved ahead with an offensive on Rafah despite the International Court of Justice ruling on Friday to halt the attack. The Court said the attack was worsening an already “disastrous” humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory.

According to local health officials in Gaza, Israeli tanks continued to bombard eastern and central areas of Rafah on Monday, killing eight.

Arab Condemnations

Arab countries and organizations have on Monday strongly condemned Israel’s strikes on displaced Palestinians’ center in southern Rafah. In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the Israeli attacks. It affirmed the Kingdom’s rejection of the blatant violations by the Israeli occupation forces of all international and humanitarian laws. The statement called on the international community to immediately intervene.

In a similar vein, Qatar said that the latest Israeli attack on Rafah could hinder mediation efforts to reach a ceasefire and a hostage release deal, according to a statement by its Foreign Ministry.

Egypt strongly condemned the Israeli attack. It said it “deliberately” targeted the displaced. Cairo said it had called on Israel “to meet its legal commitments as an occupying power” and respect the ICJ’s call on it to immediately cease its military operations.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry condemned the “ongoing heinous war crimes committed by the Israeli forces in Gaza.” It described the latest attack in Rafah as a “flagrant challenge to the ICJ and grave violation of international law and international humanitarian law.”

In a statement, Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry condemned the attack. It said that the Israeli forces’ actions against Palestinians “exposes their blatant war crimes and unprecedented genocide to the whole world.” It said this urges for “immediate and firm intervention by the international community to compel these forces into adhering to international legitimacy resolutions.”

Likewise, the Arab Parliament and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have issued separate statements slamming the “Israeli massacre against Palestinian civilians.”

Hell on Earth

In response to reports on the strikes, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) described the attacks as “horrifying.”

It wrote on X: “There are reports of mass casualties including children and women among those killed. Gaza is hell on earth. Images from last night are yet another testament to that.”

European Reaction

Israeli airstrikes have also stirred international condemnations. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has said that he is “outraged” by the Israeli airstrikes. He wrote on X that “these operations must stop.”

The Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, said that the attack on a “safe zone” outside Rafah requires partners to “sit around the table to discuss peace.”

In this regard, the UK’s Foreign Office has issued a statement in reaction to the Israeli airstrikes on Rafah. It said: “The UK is clear that we do not support a major military operation in Rafah without a plan to protect the hundreds of thousands of civilians who remain there.”

“The fastest way to end the conflict is to secure a deal which gets the hostages out and allows for a pause in the fighting in Gaza. We must then work with our international partners to turn that pause into a long-term sustainable ceasefire,” it added.

Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stressed the urgency to respect the ICJ ruling. Baerbock said: “International humanitarian law applies for all, also for Israel’s conduct of the war.”

Recognition of Palestine

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said he would ask the other 26 EU members to declare their backing of the ICJ’s decision. He was speaking alongside his Irish and Norwegian counterparts in Brussels.

He added that if Israel opposed the UN Court ruling, he would ask EU member states to “to take the right measures to enforce that decision and to back one of the most important bodies of the UN charter.”

Last week, Spain, Ireland and Norway announced they will formally recognize the State of Palestine on May 28, 2024.

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