’22 killed’ in Israeli air strike on tents for displaced people

26 May 2024, 22:04

Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

The strike came two days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah.

Palestinian medics said an Israeli air strike killed at least 22 people when it hit tents for displaced people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and “numerous” others were trapped in the debris.

The strike came two days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population had sought shelter before Israel’s recent incursion.

Tens of thousands of people remain in the area while many others have fled.

Footage from the scene showed heavy destruction and flames.

There were no immediate details on the target.

The Israeli army said it was unaware of anything occurring in the area.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was in Rafah on Sunday and was briefed on the “deepening of operations” there, his office said.

A spokesperson with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the death toll was likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continued in Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood about 1.2 miles northwest of the city centre.

The society asserted that the location had been designated by Israel as a “humanitarian area”.

The neighbourhood is part of areas that Israel’s military ordered evacuated earlier this month.

The airstrike was reported hours after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza that set off air raid sirens as far away as Tel Aviv for the first time in months in a show of resilience more than seven months into Israel’s massive air, sea and ground offensive.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January.

Hamas’ military wing claimed the attack.

Palestinian militants have sporadically fired rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border, and the military arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group later on Sunday said it fired rockets at nearby communities.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from Rafah.

It said “a number” of the projectiles were intercepted, and military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the launcher in Rafah was destroyed.

Earlier on Sunday, aid lorries entered Gaza from southern Israel under a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month.

But it was not immediately clear if humanitarian groups could access the aid because of fighting.

Egypt refuses to reopen its side of the Rafah crossing until control of the Gaza side is handed back to Palestinians.

It agreed to temporarily divert traffic through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza’s main cargo terminal, after a call between US President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

But the Kerem Shalom crossing has been largely inaccessible because of Israel’s offensive in Rafah.

Israel says it has allowed hundreds of lorries to enter, but United Nations agencies say it is usually too dangerous to retrieve the aid.

“With the humanitarian operation near collapse, the secretary-general emphasizes that the Israeli authorities must facilitate the safe pickup and delivery of humanitarian supplies from Egypt entering Kerem Shalom,” the spokesperson for UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Demonstrators burn fire during a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip (Ariel Schalit/AP)

The war between Israel and Hamas has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count.

The Health Ministry said the bodies of 81 people killed by Israeli strikes had been brought to hospitals over the past 24 hours.

Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

Around 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Hamas triggered the war with its October 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages.

Hamas still holds some 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a ceasefire last year.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel must take over Rafah to eliminate Hamas’ remaining battalions and achieve “total victory” over the militants, who recently regrouped in other parts of Gaza where the military has operated.

The war has also heightened tensions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Palestinian authorities on Sunday said Israeli forces shot dead a 14-year-old boy near the southern West Bank town of Saeer.

The Israeli army said the Palestinian male was shot dead after trying to stab Israeli forces at Beit Einun Junction.

By Press Association

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