Home News Gaza officials say Israeli airstrike kills dozens in Rafah tent camp

Gaza officials say Israeli airstrike kills dozens in Rafah tent camp

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Gaza’s Health Ministry said an Israeli airstrike on a makeshift Palestinian refugee tent camp in Rafah, Gaza, killed at least 35 people on Sunday night. The Israeli military said the attack targeted a Hamas camp.

The Israeli military said in a statement it was investigating reports that “several civilians were injured in the area as a result of the airstrike and the subsequent fire.” A later statement said two Hamas leaders were killed in the attack.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said its ambulance teams had taken a “large number” of victims to the Tal Sultan clinic and the Rafah field hospital, one of the few remaining functioning hospitals, and that “many people” were trapped in the fire at the site of the attack.

The Red Crescent said the airstrike hit the Tal As Sultan area of ​​Rafah, which is within a humanitarian zone designated by the Israeli military and where Palestinian civilians have been told to seek shelter ahead of an Israeli ground offensive on Rafah. The New York Times could not immediately confirm details of the airstrike.

Israel’s offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah has been closely watched, especially after the International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Israel to “immediately” cease its military offensive there. While the court has few effective means to enforce its order, it has increased pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to rein in its attacks on Gaza and reduce civilian casualties.

Bilal Al Sapti, a 30-year-old construction worker in Rafah, said shrapnel from the airstrike destroyed the tent where he lived with his wife and two children, but his family was not injured.

“What kind of tent is going to protect us from missiles and shrapnel?” he said.

Mr. Sapti said that at the scene of the attack, he saw charred bodies and people screaming as firefighters tried to put out the flames. “The fire was so intense that it spread throughout the camp,” he said. “It was pitch black and there was no electricity.”

Doctors Without Borders said more than 15 people were killed and dozens of injured in the Rafah attack were taken to a trauma stabilization center the group supports in Tal-Sultan.

Dr James Smith, a British emergency relief expert who has been working at the centre, said the attack killed displaced people who were “seeking some level of shelter and refuge in tarpaulin tents”.

Dr. Smith, speaking in an interview at a house a few miles from the trauma center, said the distance was too dangerous to cross. Colleagues at the trauma center shared videos of the casualties from the attack and fire, “the worst casualties I have ever seen.”

Dr. Smith said that although the United Nations estimated that more than 800,000 people had fled Rafah in the weeks after the Israeli army announced its offensive, the area remained densely populated.

“These tents are packed very, very tightly together,” he said. “A fire like this could have spread very far in a very short period of time and have had catastrophic consequences.”

He added that the attack was “one of the most horrific things I have seen and heard in my weeks working in Gaza.”

Patrick Kingsley, Johnson Rice, Iyad Abu Hwella and Alan Boxman Contributed reporting.

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