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War on Gaza: Dozens killed and wounded after Israel bombs displaced Palestinians

The strikes took place in Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood, where thousands of people are taking shelter, and came two days after the ICJ ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in an Israeli strike on a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah, at the city's Tal al-Sultan clinic morgue on 27 May, 2024 (Eyad Baba/AFP)

At least 40 Palestinians were killed and dozens more wounded on Sunday when Israeli air strikes targeted a centre for displaced people in Gaza's southern city of Rafah.

The strikes took place in a UN-run "safe zone" in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood, where thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter after Israeli forces launched a ground offensive in eastern parts of the city earlier this month.

Mohammad al-Mughayyir, a senior official at the civil defence agency, told AFP that at least 40 Palestinians were killed and at least 65 wounded in the Israeli strikes.

"We saw charred bodies and dismembered limbs … We also saw cases of amputations, wounded children, women and the elderly," Mughayyir said.

Eyewitnesses told Reuters that tents were "melting" after the bombardment, burning people alive. 

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Videos posted on social media showed fires raging through makeshift tents while survivors tried in vain to extricate those caught in the flames.

"More horror in the Gaza Ghetto," said Francesca Albanese, the United Nations' special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories.

"The Israeli occupation forces have bombed a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, causing plastic tents to catch fire and tragically burning people alive.

"This cruelty, along with blatant defiance of the int'l law and system, is unacceptable. The Gaza Genocide‌ will not easily end without external pressure: Israel must face sanctions, justice, suspension of agreements, trade, partnership and investments, as well as participation in int'l forums."

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri described the attack as a "massacre", and said he held the United States responsible for supplying Israel with weaponry and financial assistance.

The ICRC said one of its field hospitals was receiving an "influx of casualties seeking care for injuries and burns" and reported that other hospitals were also receiving a large number of patients.

"Our teams are doing their best to save lives," the ICRC said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the global humanitarian group ActionAid said it was "outraged and heartbroken" after Israel targeted the shelters next to Unrwa warehouses stocking "vital aid."

"The images coming from our partners of burned bodies are a scar on the face of humanity and the global community, which so far has failed to protect the people of Gaza. One of our own ActionAid colleagues narrowly escaped this atrocity, having left the shelter just a day before the attack," the aid agency said.

"Nobody's safety is guaranteed in Gaza," it added.

Early on Monday, Israel acknowledged civilian casualties but claimed its forces had targeted a Hamas compound in Rafah.

"The strike was carried out against legitimate targets under international law, through the use of precise munitions and on the basis of precise intelligence that indicated Hamas’s use of the area," the Israeli army said in a statement.

"The IDF [Israeli army] is aware of reports indicating that, as a result of the strike and fire that was ignited, several civilians in the area were harmed. The incident is under review."

The air strikes came just two days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to "immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah."

Strikes in other areas of Rafah were also reported late on Sunday, with the Kuwait Specialised Hospital saying it had received the bodies of three people, including a pregnant woman.

Map of Rafah

Israel launched a ground operation on Rafah in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.

Earlier on Sunday, Israel's army said at least eight rockets were fired towards central areas of the country from Rafah.

Hamas's armed wing said in a post on Telegram it had targeted Tel Aviv "with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians".

Since Hamas's October 7 assault on southern Israel, nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been killed and around 1.7 million displaced, in what was described at the ICJ in January as a plausible genocide.

Nearly 80,000 people have also been wounded, according to health officials. The figures exclude tens of thousands of dead who are believed to be buried in the bombed-out ruins of homes, shops, shelters and other buildings.

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