Selangor Journal
Palestinian children search for food among burnt debris in the aftermath of an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 27, 2024. — Picture by REUTERS

International outcry after Israeli attack on Rafah camp sets tents on fire, kills 45

CAIRO/JERUSALEM, May 28 — An Israeli airstrike triggered a fire that killed 45 people in a tent camp in the Gazan city of Rafah, officials said yesterday, prompting an outcry from global leaders who urged the implementation of a World Court order to halt Israel’s assault.

Palestinian families rushed to hospitals to prepare their dead for burial after a strike late on Sunday night set tents and rickety metal shelters ablaze.

Israel’s military said it was investigating reports that a strike it carried out against Hamas commanders in Rafah had caused the fire.

Survivors said families were preparing to sleep when the strike hit the Tel Al-Sultan neighbourhood where thousands were sheltering after Israeli forces began a ground offensive in the east of Rafah over two weeks ago.

“We were praying … and we were getting our children’s beds ready to sleep. There was nothing unusual, then we heard a very loud noise, and fire erupted around us,” said Umm Mohamed Al-Attar, a Palestinian mother in a red headscarf.

“All the children started screaming … The sound was terrifying; we felt like the metal was about to collapse on us, and shrapnel fell into the rooms.”

Video footage obtained by Reuters showed a fire raging in the darkness and people screaming in panic. A group of young men tried to haul away sheets of corrugated iron and a hose from a single fire truck began to douse the flames.

More than half of the dead were women, children, and elderly people, health officials in Hamas-run Gaza said, adding that the death toll was likely to rise from people with severe burns.

Israel has kept up its offensive despite a ruling by the top UN court on Friday ordering it to stop, saying the court’s ruling grants it some scope for military action there.

The US urged Israel to take more care to protect civilians, but stopped short of calling for a halt to the Rafah incursion.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged” over Israel’s latest attacks. “These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” he said on X. Several thousand demonstrators later gathered in Paris to protest against the offensive.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the International Court of Justice ruling must be respected.

International humanitarian law applies for all, also for Israel’s conduct of the war,” Baerbock said.

Canada’s government said it was “horrified” by the deadly airstrike in Rafah, and called for an immediate ceasefire.

“Canada does not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a post on X. “This level of human suffering must come to an end.”

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also condemned the Israeli attack and Qatar said the Rafah strike could hinder efforts to mediate a ceasefire and hostage exchange.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says.

By daylight, the camp in Rafah was a smoking wreckage of tents, twisted metal and charred belongings.

Women wept and men held prayers beside bodies in shrouds.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs based in the West Bank condemned “the heinous massacre.” Egypt also condemned Israel’s “deliberate bombing of the tents of displaced people”, state media reported, describing it as a blatant violation of international law.

— Reuters

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