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Israeli strike on humanitarian zone near Gaza's Rafah kills 'at least 21'

Forces targeted al-Mawasi just days after a widely condemned Israeli attack on a displacement camp
Smoke rises from southern Gaza on 28 May in this picture taken from within Israel (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

Israeli forces have struck a group of tents west of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, killing at least 21 people, according to Palestinian medical officials.

The attack on Tuesday struck the al-Mawasi area near Rafah, which had been designated a "humanitarian zone" by Israeli forces.

Israel's military has encouraged Palestinians in Rafah to seek shelter in the area, as it continues its offensive on the southern Gaza city.

According to Reuters, at least 12 of those killed are women and those in the area were previously displaced from other areas of Gaza.

Speaking after the attack, Palestinian presidential spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, called the new attack a massacre, and called for the implementation of the International Court of Justice decision last week for Israel to halt its offensive on Rafah.

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Tuesday's strike follows Sunday's widely condemned Israeli attack on a displacement camp in Rafah, which killed at least 45 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

Another 249 were wounded, some seriously, including people with severe burns and severed limbs. 

Images of headless children prompted widespread condemnation of Israel.

Rafah attack

Josep Borrell, the European Union's foreign policy chief, called it “horrifying”. While French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "outraged" by the strikes. 

"These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians," he said on X.

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The Israeli military said it used “precise ammunition” in the attack, allegedly to kill two members of Hamas’ armed wing.

Footage of the al-Mawasi strike, which has been verified by Al Jazeera, shows several lifeless bodies lying on the ground, some covered with blankets.

Israel's offensive on Rafah is proceeding despite reservations by its supporters in Washington and Europe.

The US described the attack on Rafah on Sunday as "heartbreaking" and had previously called on Israel not to launch a military offensive on the city, which is home to hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced from elsewhere in Gaza.

Rafah had been spared the worst of the carnage Israel has unleashed on the Gaza Strip after the start of the war in October.

The expansion of the conflict into the area also risks inflaming tensions with Egypt, with whom Israel has a peace treaty.

On Monday details emerged of clashes between Egyptian soldiers and Israelis stationed near the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which resulted in the death of at least two Egyptian soldiers.

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