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Rafah camp bombing: World leaders 'horrified' by Israeli air strike

Arab and Western leaders denounce the attack that killed dozens of civilians in an area designated as a safe zone by the Israeli army
A Palestinian boy looks on at the site of an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, 27 May 2024 (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)
A Palestinian boy looks on at the site of an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, 27 May 2024 (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

World leaders have expressed their outrage following Israel’s attack on a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, southern Gaza on Sunday.

The death toll from the attack, which took place in Tel al-Sultan neighbourhood in western Rafah, has now risen to 45, the Palestinian health ministry said. 

The area has been designated by Israel as a “safe-zone” and thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge there since Israel invaded Rafah two weeks ago.

“Outraged by the Israeli strikes that have killed many displaced persons in Rafah,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X.

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” he added, calling for “full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire".

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Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, said he is "horrified" by news of the attack.

"I condemn this in the strongest terms. There is no safe place in Gaza," he said in a statement, urging an immediate end to the Israeli onslaught and respect for international law and the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) order to halt the Rafah offensive.

In the United Kingdom, Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is set to compete in the 4 July elections, told reporters that he will work for a ceasefire once elected prime minister.

“Those scenes, those reports are horrifying. What makes it worse is that this was a safe zone, with women and children in it, families that had already fled a number of times,” he said.

“I was shocked by what I saw overnight, I think any human being would be shocked by what they saw overnight,” he said, adding that the civilian casualties are an "inevitable consequence" of Israel's military operation in Rafah, which world leaders have been warning against.

Left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn also called the strike “a monstrous failure of humanity”. 

Satellite images show Rafah's Tel al-Sultan after Israeli strike

Drag the button to see the devastation

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan vowed to hold “barbaric” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accountable over Sunday’s attack, stating that the strikes had “nothing to do with humanity”. 

Earlier this month, Turkey ended all trade with Israel over its role in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, ending a long-term free trade agreement. 

Headless child, charred bodies: Survivors recount Israel’s Rafah camp massacre
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The attack occurred only two days after the UN’s top court, the ICJ, ordered an immediate end to Israel’s military actions in Rafah, which may constitute a violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

Egypt’s foreign ministry also decried the attack as “deliberate”.

It added that it represents “another flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention".

It added that the attack could hinder any efforts to agree a ceasefire.

Qatar condemned the attack in “the strongest terms”. It called for Israeli authorities to adhere to the ICJ’s decision, stating that the international community should “prevent the occupation forces from implementing their plans aimed at forcibly displaced civilians from the city which has become a final refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the Gaza Strip”. 

Qatar and Egypt have been the two main mediators between Israel and Hamas since the beginning of hostilities on 7 October.


The foreign ministry of the United Arab Emirates issued a statement denouncing the attack, saying it killed innocent civilians. The ministry reiterated its call for a ceasefire and for upholding decisions by the ICJ ordering Israel to end and prevent violations of the Genocide Convention.

Saudi Arabia also condemned the attack as a "flagrant violation by Israeli forces of all international and humanitarian resolutions, laws and norms".

A statement by the foreign ministry called on the international community to “intervene immediately to stop the massacres and prevent the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe from deepening".

Irish Politician Tánaiste Micheál Martin, speaking at a news conference, said that Israel’s strikes on Rafah were “barbaric”.

He added that measures should be taken to enforce the UN’s demand to end the violence in Gaza. 

On Tuesday, 28 May, Ireland, Norway, and Spain are set to officially recognise Palestine as a state, which has sparked a strong objection from Israel. 

Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday stated that Israel’s attacks on Rafah are “cruel and inhumane” and that they “contribute to worsening the consequences and conditions of deterioration experienced by the population in Gaza”.

Sunday’s casualties included 23 women, children, and elderly people, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Women and children also constitute the majority of more than 36,000 people who have been killed since October by the Israeli armed forces.

Israel claimed its air strikes on Tel al-Sultan targeted a Hamas compound and killed two senior leaders of the group. Hamas has not confirmed the death of its two members.

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