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Israel Condemned Globally After Rafah Airstrike Kills 45 Civilians

Photo : AFP

Israel faced a wave of international condemnation on Monday after a strike in Rafah killed 45 people. Gaza officials reported that the attack set off a fire that swept through a tent city for displaced Palestinians. Israel's military acknowledged the incident as a "tragic accident" and is investigating its impact on civilians.

The Gaza conflict has been raging since October 7, escalating further when Israel launched a ground operation in Rafah in early May. On Monday, tensions heightened as the Israeli and Egyptian militaries reported a "shooting incident" in the border area between Egypt and southern Gaza, resulting in the death of an Egyptian guard. Both forces are investigating this incident.

Israel's military stated that Sunday evening's attack in Rafah targeted and killed two senior Hamas operatives. However, the attack also ignited a fire that Palestinian and Arab nations condemned as a "massacre." The US National Security Council emphasized that Israel "must take every precaution possible to protect civilians," while the UN Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, called for a "thorough and transparent" investigation. UN human rights chief Volker Turk criticized the attack, highlighting "horrific" images and noting the lack of apparent changes in Israel's warfare methods, which have caused numerous civilian deaths.

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French President Emmanuel Macron urged an end to the operations, stating there are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. Displaced Gazan Khalil al-Bahtini prepared to leave the affected area, recounting the destruction of a nearby tent. He expressed uncertainty about where to go next.

EU foreign ministers have called for a meeting with Israel to explain its actions in Rafah, despite a UN court order to halt the offensive. Josep Borrell, the bloc's top diplomat, labeled the strike "horrifying." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed parliament, stating the government was investigating the "tragic accident" and emphasizing efforts to protect civilians. However, relatives of captives held in Gaza, pressuring Netanyahu for action on a hostage release deal, interrupted him with protests.

Israel launched the Rafah attack following a Hamas rocket barrage at the Tel Aviv area. The Israeli military claimed the airstrike targeted a Hamas compound in Rafah, killing Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar, senior Hamas officials. Gaza's civil defense agency reported that the strike caused a fire in a displacement center near a UNRWA facility. Mohammad al-Mughayyir from the agency described scenes of charred bodies and dismembered limbs, with many wounded children, women, and elderly.

Footage from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society showed chaotic rescue scenes as paramedics evacuated the wounded. Mughayyir noted that rescue efforts were hindered by war damage and shortages of fuel and water due to Israel's siege.

The Israeli attack drew strong protests from Egypt, Qatar, and other regional governments. Egypt condemned the targeting of civilians, labeling it a systematic effort to render Gaza uninhabitable. Jordan accused Israel of "ongoing war crimes," while Saudi Arabia and Turkey condemned the "massacres" and vowed accountability. Qatar highlighted the attack as a "dangerous violation of international law," complicating mediation efforts for a truce.

African Union chair Moussa Faki Mahamat criticized Israel's disregard for an ICJ ruling that ordered an end to military actions in Rafah. The conflict began after the October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in over 1,170 deaths, mostly civilians, and led to Hamas capturing 252 hostages, with 121 still in Gaza.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,050 people in Gaza, predominantly civilians. Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, noted the increasing difficulty in providing assistance amid the conflict, describing Rafah as "hell on Earth." The attack on Rafah has made aid distribution nearly impossible due to movement restrictions, strikes, and rocket launches.

Dr. Suhaib al-Hams, acting director at Rafah's Kuwait Speciality Hospital, reported the facility's closure after Israeli shelling killed two medics. On Tuesday, Spain, Ireland, and Norway plan to formally recognize a Palestinian state, a move opposed by Israel, which announced punitive measures against Madrid.

May 28, 2024 10:45 a.m. 513

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