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What is Rafah Massacre and you should know about it?

Israeli forces bombed a displaced persons camp in Rafah, Gaza, killing at least 21 civilians, including 12 women. Despite an ICJ order to halt offensives, Israeli attacks continue. Global condemnation, calling for accountability and an immediate ceasefire

By Ground report
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What is Rafah Massacre and you should know about it?

Photo credit: UNRWA

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Israeli forces bombed a tent camp housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza Strip, according to Gaza health authorities. The bombing killed at least 21 civilians, including 12 women. The attack comes two days after another Israeli airstrike on a camp in the same area.

What is Rafah Massacre?

The incident happened on Tuesday when four Israeli tank shells hit the tents at the Al-Mawasi camp, a safe zone for civilians fleeing the fighting in Rafah. Witnesses reported devastation, with tents on fire as families settled down to sleep.

One resident told Reuters via a chat app

"tank shells are falling in Tel Al-Sultan. Many families fled their houses in western Rafah under fire throughout the night," the resident said, referring to the neighbourhood of Sunday's strike".

As the news of the massacre spread, global leaders, human rights groups, and celebrities condemned the attack as a violation of international law and a horrific crime against innocent civilians, including many children.

Qatar condemned the attack as a "grave violation of international laws that will worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza." It is involved in mediation efforts with the US and Egypt to secure a ceasefire.

Egypt condemned the "deliberate bombardment" of the safe zone and urged Israel to "implement the ICJ's measures for an immediate cessation of military operations" in Rafah.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to hold those responsible accountable. He stated, "We will do everything possible to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable."

African Union Commission chair, Moussa Mahamat Faki, echoed the sentiment, saying,

"Israel continues to violate international law and an ICJ ruling ordering an end to its military action in Rafah, with horrific overnight airstrikes killing mostly Palestinian women & children in a displacement camp in Rafah."

Defying international court order

The attack came two days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to halt any offensive in Rafah and elsewhere that could lead to "the physical destruction" of the Palestinians. The order was in response to a case brought by Palestine against Israel's occupation.

Despite the court's decision, Israeli forces have continued their offensive in Rafah, a densely populated city in southern Gaza that has been the focus of the fighting since the Israeli incursion began in early May.

"It's compulsory. We've had a binding order from the International Court of Justice for Israel to stop its attack in Rafah, referring to the ICJ ruling."

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged a "tragic mistake" but didn't halt the offensive. He stated, "Despite our efforts not to harm innocent civilians, there was a tragic mistake last night. We're investigating because that's our policy."

Humanitarian crisis in Gaza

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the attack worsened the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Over a million people have been displaced by the ongoing conflict there.

Footage obtained by Reuters showed families carrying their belongings through Rafah's shattered streets, with their children trailing behind them as they fled the violence.

"There are lots of attacks, smoke, and dust. It's death from God...The (Israelis) are hitting everywhere. We're tired," said Moayad Fusaifas, a resident pushing his belongings on two bicycles.

The Israeli military claimed it conducted operations along the Philadelphi Corridor separating Gaza from Egypt "based on intelligence indicating the presence of terror targets." However, witnesses in central Rafah reported intense gunbattles between Israeli troops and Hamas-led fighters.

Escalating violence and casualties

Israel launched an air and ground offensive in Gaza after Hamas attacked southern Israeli communities, killing 1,200 people and seizing 250 hostages, according to Israeli reports. The goal is to eliminate Hamas and rescue the hostages in Rafah.

The violence has taken a devastating toll on Gaza's civilians. According to the Gaza health ministry, over 36,000 Palestinians have been killed since the offensive began.

After the Rafah massacre, countries and international organizations are calling for an immediate ceasefire and accountability for civilian deaths.

The United States urged Israel to protect civilians but did not condemn the attack. A National Security Council spokesperson said the US is "actively engaging the IDF and partners to assess and understand that the IDF is investigating."

Many world leaders and public figures criticized Israel's actions.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "outraged" by the attack and declared, "These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians."

Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares described the bombing as "another day of innocent Palestinian civilians being killed." He added that the attack's gravity "is even larger" given the ICJ's recent ruling.

Ireland's Foreign Minister Micheal Martin condemned the attack as "barbaric." He stated, "Bombing an area like that has shocking consequences for innocent children and civilians. We urge Israel to stop the military operation in Rafah."

Protests and solidarity

The Rafah massacre sparked protests and solidarity from celebrities, activists, and citizens. In Paris, around 10,000 people demonstrated near the Israeli embassy, chanting "We are all Gaza children," "Free Gaza," and other pro-Palestinian slogans.

Celebrities, including singers, actors, and other influential figures, expressed outrage over Israel's ongoing atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza, especially the Rafah massacre.

Lebanese singer Elissa, a top-selling Arab female artist in the Middle East, said,

"The images and sounds of Rafah will never leave my mind. Humanity died yesterday and has been dead since October 7. Oh Lord, our prayers and what we ask for would not be enough. Have mercy on these people and children and have mercy on Palestine. What is this crime? Is this the democracy that they are exporting to the world?"

Palestinian-American supermodel Bella Hadid condemned the Israeli strike on Rafah and showed solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza on Instagram.

Actress Marcia Cross, known for "Desperate Housewives," used her social media to condemn Israeli aggression on Gaza. She reposted pro-Palestine content and used hashtags like #CeasefireInGazaNOW and #StopBombingHospitals.

Calls for accountability, justice, and an immediate end to hostilities are growing. The international community must take action to protect innocent lives and stop the escalating violence.

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