‘Heinous massacre’: Israel’s attack on Rafah tent camp widely condemned

Qatar calls attack that killed at least 40 Palestinians a ‘grave violation of international laws’ and UN special rapporteur urges sanctions on Israel.

Several countries and global organisations have condemned the Israeli air attack on tents housing displaced people in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah that killed at least 40 Palestinians, including many children.

The Palestinian presidency on Monday accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, joining a chorus of worldwide condemnation following the attack.

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(Al Jazeera)

“The perpetration of this heinous massacre by the Israeli occupation forces is a challenge to all international legitimacy resolutions,” the Palestinian presidency said in a statement, accusing Israeli forces of “deliberately targeting” the tents of displaced people.

In a statement on X, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said the images from Rafah are yet another testament that Gaza is “hell on earth”.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri called the attack a “massacre”, holding the United States responsible for aiding Israel with weapons and money.

Israel’s top military prosecutor described the attack as “very grave” and said an investigation will be conducted. “The details of the incident are still under an investigation, which we are committed to conducting to the fullest extent,” Major-General Yifat Tomer Yerushalmi told a news conference, adding that the Israeli army “regrets any harm to non-combatants during the war”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a “tragic mistake” had been made.

“Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night, there was a tragic mistake,” Netanyahu said in an address to Israel’s parliament. “We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion because this is our policy.”

Palestinian witnesses and Al Jazeera’s fact-checking agency Sanad said the camp sheltering civilians in Rafah’s Tal as-Sultan area was deliberately targeted.

The Wafa news agency, citing the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), said the dead included women and children, with many “burned alive” inside their tents.

One of the residents who arrived at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah said the “tents were melting and the people’s bodies are also melting” after the attack.

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Palestinians put out a fire at the site of the Israeli attack in Rafah [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Here are some reactions from governments and other officials from around the world:

‘Deliberate bombardment’

  • Qatar condemned the Rafah attack as a grave violation of international laws that will aggravate the humanitarian crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip. It said the attack could hinder mediation efforts to reach a ceasefire and hostage exchange deal, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Qatar, alongside the US and Egypt, has been engaged in months of talks aimed at securing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
  • Egypt condemned the “deliberate bombardment”. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Israel to “implement the measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning an immediate cessation of military operations” in Rafah.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would do “everything possible” to hold “barbaric” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to account over the deadly strikes. “We will do everything possible to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable who have nothing to do with humanity,” he said.
  • Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said the bombing of Rafah was “one more day with innocent Palestinian civilians being killed”. He said the gravity of the attack “is even larger” because it comes after the ICJ order directing Israel to halt its operation in Rafah and the rest of Gaza.
  • Ireland’s Foreign Minister Micheal Martin described the attack as “barbaric”. “One cannot bomb an area like that without shocking consequences in terms of innocent children and civilians. We would urge Israel to stop, to stop now, in terms of the military operation in Rafah.”
  • Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said the attacks are a “material breach of the decision of the highest court of the world”. He added: “We’ve had a compulsory order from the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to stop its attack in Rafah. It is compulsory. It’s binding.”

  • The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Israel must abide by the ICJ ruling to stop its offensive in Rafah as EU foreign ministers met their Arab counterparts in Brussels hours after Israel’s deadly attack on Rafah.
  • Before the EU ministers’ meeting on Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, “International humanitarian law applies for all, also for Israel’s conduct of the war.”

  • Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, labelled Israel’s bombing of the Rafah camp a “monstrous failure of humanity”. In a post on X, he said, “Palestinian children should wake up feeling excited to go to school and play with their friends. Instead, for those murdered in Rafah, their last moments on this earth were filled with unimaginable fear as bombs rained down on their tents.”

‘Children dismembered, burnt alive’

  • Humza Yousaf, the former first minister of Scotland, posted on X: “Days after the ICJ orders Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah, the Israeli Government bombs displaced people living in tents. Innocent men, women & children dismembered and burnt alive. Bear witness to the images and ask yourself, are you on the right side of history?”

  • In one of the strongest criticisms Italy has made so far, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said the Israeli attacks were no longer justifiable. “There is an increasingly difficult situation, in which the Palestinian people are being squeezed without regard for the rights of innocent men, women and children who have nothing to do with Hamas and this can no longer be justified,” he said. “We are watching the situation with despair.”
  • Jagmeet Singh, a Canadian legislator and leader of the New Democratic Party, posted on X: “The world is failing the people of Gaza. Canada is failing the people of Gaza.”
  • US House Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat, urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “immediately halt” the assault on Rafah. “The horrific loss of innocent lives today with the bombing of a refugee camp underscores the moral urgency of stopping the Rafah campaign,” he said.
  • Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the Israeli Knesset, denounced the Netanyahu government for its “madness and vindictiveness”.  Writing on X, Touma-Sliman said, “This bloody government refuses to obey all orders of the tribunal, and is taking the madness and vindictiveness to a new criminal level.”

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  • Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory, described Israel’s attack on the tent camp in Rafah as “unacceptable”. In a post on X, she wrote, “The #GazaGenocide‌ 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.”

‘Monstrous atrocity’

  • Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, called for action against Israel in the wake of its latest attack. Writing on X, he said, “Attacking women and children while they cower in their shelters in Rafah is a monstrous atrocity. We need concerted global action to stop Israel’s actions now.”
  • Chris Gunness, former spokesperson for UNRWA, said the three judges at the pre-trial chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) “are as horrified as the rest of the world” about the Israeli attack on Rafah. “There is no exception to the Genocide Convention. There are no excuses. This is the crime of crimes,” he said.
  • In a statement on X, charity Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials MSF) said it was “horrified” by the attack, which “shows once again that nowhere is safe.” It added: “We continue to call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza.”
  • ActionAid humanitarian group says it was “outraged and heartbroken” by the “inhumane, barbaric” attack on the Rafah camp. “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,” it says, adding that one of its colleagues narrowly escaped, having left the shelter just a day before the attack.
  • Triestino Mariniello, a lawyer with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCGR), said the attack on a designated safe zone shows that Israel is still ignoring the ICJ. “These horrible images that arrive from Rafah show that the Israeli authorities are completely disregarding the binding, provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice.”
  • In her post on X, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the US-based think tank DAWN, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “Does burning people in refugee tents count as a ‘serious offensive that fails to protect civilians’ in Rafah?”
  • Dalal Mawad, an award-winning Lebanese journalist, also weighed in, writing on X: “In 1996, I saw a decapitated newborn baby in the Qana massacre perpetrated by Israel in a UN displaced camp in the south of Lebanon. I never recovered from that sight. Last night, the same crime was committed again. Impunity means history will always repeat itself.”

  • The African Union Commission under Moussa Mahamat Faki, said the ICJ order must be “urgently enforced if global order is to prevail”. He wrote in X: “With horrific overnight airstrikes killing mostly Palestinian women & children trapped in a displacement camp in Rafah, the State of Israel continues to violate international law with impunity and in contempt of an ICJ ruling two days ago ordering an end to its military action in Rafah.”
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged”. “These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” he said on X.

  • Saudi Arabia said it “condemns in the strongest terms the continued massacres” carried out by Israeli forces in Gaza. It “affirmed its categorical rejection of the continued flagrant violations by the Israeli occupation forces of all international and humanitarian resolutions, laws, and norms”.
  • The United Arab Emirates also “denounced the ongoing Israeli violations in the Gaza Strip”, and called for an immediate ceasefire.
  • The United States urged Israel to take every precaution to protect civilians after “devastating images” from Rafah. A National Security Council spokesperson said the US is “actively engaging the IDF and partners on the ground to assess what happened, and understand that the IDF is conducting an investigation”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies