At least 21 killed in Israeli attacks on tent camp near Gaza’s Rafah

Palestinian officials say at least 12 women among those killed in attack on tent camp for displaced people in al-Mawasi.

Palestinians inspect their tents after an Israeli army raid on an area previously designated as safe for displaced Palestinians, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip [Haitham Imad/EPA]

At least 21 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on a tent camp housing displaced families in al-Mawasi, near Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, according to Palestinian medical officials and the official Palestinian news agency, days after an Israeli strike on another camp drew global condemnation.

At least 12 of those killed in the attacks in the Rafah governorate on Tuesday were women, medical officials in the Palestinian enclave said.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health said in a Telegram post that 64 people were wounded in the attack, including 10 who were in critical condition.

The Wafa news agency reported that the area was hit by Israeli air strikes.

The Israeli military denied conducting a strike in al-Mawasi.

“Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the [Israeli army] did not strike in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi,” the military said in a statement.

Israel previously designated al-Mawasi, in western Rafah, a humanitarian area to which Palestinians should evacuate for their safety.

“Israeli forces targeted another makeshift tent [area] where most of the people were women and children,” Al Jazeera’s Hind Khoudary said, reporting from Deir el-Balah.

“Palestinians do not trust Israeli forces because every time they reallocate, they get targeted,” Khoudary said, referring to displaced families who had sought refuge in Gaza’s south after fleeing bombardment elsewhere in the territory.

“There’s simply no area that is safe across the Gaza Strip,” she added.

“There are no hospitals in Rafah. All the injured and the dead bodies have been transferred to the International Medical Corps field hospital. There are no ambulances.”

Footage shared on social media and verified by Al Jazeera’s Sanad fact-checking agency showed what appeared to be several people killed and wounded after an attack.

People could be seen frantically attending to the bloodied victims and covering the bodies of those killed with blankets.

The Palestinian president’s spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, described the attack as a “massacre” and called for the implementation of a decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to halt its offensive on Rafah.

Israel has continued to press its offensive despite a ruling by the top United Nations court on Friday ordering it to stop, saying the court’s ruling grants it some scope for military action in the area.

Kuwait Specialty Hospital forced to shut down

The attack on the camp for displaced people came two days after an attack on a camp in the Tal as-Sultan area near Rafah killed 45 Palestinians. After the attack, a fire spread rapidly, razing the encampment to the ground.

The Wafa news agency, quoting the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), said that many of those who died were “burned alive” inside their tents.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday that Israel’s munitions alone “could not” have caused the deadly blaze.

“Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” Hagari said in a news briefing on the preliminary findings of the army’s investigation into the attack.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs Gaza, has called on the UN to act to stop Israeli attacks on tents where displaced families are sheltering in Rafah.

“The international community, the UN Security Council, and the ICJ, need to move urgently and take immediate action to stop these grave violations and protect civilians including women and children,” Hamas said in a statement.

At its most crowded, Rafah was home to about 1.5 million people, most of whom are now on the move, fleeing Israel’s tanks and air raids.

Aid agencies and the UN have warned that the widely criticised Rafah offensive is worsening an already dire humanitarian situation in the besieged and bombarded enclave.

The forced expulsion of Palestinians has made it increasingly difficult for aid workers to distribute dwindling supplies of aid to families facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

Israel seized control of the Palestinian side of the vital Rafah border crossing with Egypt on May 7, shortly after it launched its long-threatened military offensive in the overcrowded area.

It is continuing to bar the entry of humanitarian supplies, including much-needed fuel. Scarce amounts of aid had previously entered the Strip via the crossing after Israel launched its latest assault on Gaza on October 7.

The lack of fuel and medicine has led to the shutting down of several hospitals in Gaza. The Kuwait Specialty Hospital was forced out of service by Israeli attacks, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday, leaving only one hospital operating in the city.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies