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Explosive violence by the Israeli Defense ForcesAOAV: all our reportsExplosive violence in Gaza

Dozens reported killed in Israeli strike on Rafah

At least 45 people, including women and children, were killed on May 27 in an Israeli airstrike on a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry confirmed the casualties following the strike in the Tal al-Sultan area on Sunday night. Videos from the scene depicted a large explosion and intense fires engulfing the area.

Incident Details

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported that the strike targeted two “senior Hamas terrorists” and stated that it is investigating the civilian casualties resulting from the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the incident as a “tragedy,” while the IDF expressed regret over any harm to uninvolved civilians.

Hours before the airstrike, Hamas launched eight rockets from Rafah towards Tel Aviv, marking the first long-range attack on the central Israeli city since January. Despite an Israeli ground operation in Rafah displacing around 800,000 people over the past three weeks, hundreds of thousands are still believed to be sheltering in the area.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that Sunday’s airstrike targeted tents for displaced individuals near a UN facility in Tal al-Sultan, about 2 km northwest of Rafah’s center. Graphic footage from the scene showed structures ablaze and first responders carrying several bodies.

Eyewitness Accounts

Fadi Dukhan, a witness, told Reuters: “We were sitting at the door of the house safely. Suddenly we heard the sound of a missile. We ran and found the street covered in smoke.” Another witness, Abed Mohammed al-Attar, said his brother and sister-in-law were killed, leaving their children orphaned. “The [Israeli] army is a liar. There is no security in Gaza. There is no security, not for a child, an elderly man, or a woman,” he lamented.

Official Responses

The IDF stated that Israel’s Military Advocate General, Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, has ordered an investigation into the incident. The IDF also noted that before the strike, measures were taken to minimize the risk to civilians, including aerial surveillance and the use of precise munitions.

Israeli government spokesman Avi Hyman suggested that a fire, which started post-strike, might have caused additional casualties. In a Monday speech, Maj Gen Tomer-Yerushalmi described the incident in Rafah as “very difficult.”

Humanitarian Impact

The Hamas-run health ministry reported that at least 45 people, including 23 women, children, and elderly, were killed in the strike. Mohammad al-Mughayyir from Gaza’s civil defense agency described seeing “charred bodies and dismembered limbs.” Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that 15 bodies and dozens of casualties were brought to a trauma stabilization point it supports, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

UNRWA spokeswoman Juliette Touma said communication with teams on the ground in Rafah has been challenging but confirmed a significant incident near one of its largest buildings in the area. “No place is safe in Gaza. No-one is safe, including aid workers,” she told the BBC.

International Reactions

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed outrage over the incident, calling for an immediate ceasefire and full respect for international law. Qatar warned that the strike could complicate its mediation efforts to achieve a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

Despite a ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to halt military operations in Rafah, Israel continues its campaign against Hamas. Since the start of Israel’s military campaign in response to a cross-border attack by Hamas on 7 October, which resulted in about 1,200 Israeli deaths and 252 hostages taken, the Hamas-run health ministry claims that at least 36,050 people have been killed in Gaza.

The airstrike on Rafah underscores the devastating impact of the ongoing conflict on civilians in Gaza. With thousands displaced and continued military operations, the humanitarian situation remains dire. The international community continues to call for immediate ceasefire and adherence to international law to protect innocent lives.

“These tragic events underscore the urgent need for all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and prioritize the protection of civilians,” said Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). “The loss of innocent lives in such conflicts is a stark reminder of the devastating human cost of war.”