Israel pounds Rafah despite global outcry over horrific tent massacre

Gaza - Israel carried out fresh strikes on Wednesday in the southern Gaza city of Rafah after the UN Security Council met to discuss a deadly attack on a tent camp that sparked global outcry.

Smoke billows following Israeli strikes in Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip.
Smoke billows following Israeli strikes in Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip.  © Eyad BABA / AFP

Despite mounting concern over the Palestinian civilian toll, Israel has shown no sign of changing course, and international efforts aimed at securing a ceasefire remain stalled.

AFP journalists in Rafah reported new strikes early Wednesday, hours after witnesses and a Palestinian security source said Israeli tanks had penetrated the heart of the city.

"People are currently inside their homes because anyone who moves is being shot at by Israeli drones," resident Abdel Khatib said.

Joke of the Night for June 22, 2024: The best jokes to laugh Caturday away
Joke of the Day Joke of the Night for June 22, 2024: The best jokes to laugh Caturday away

US President Joe Biden has warned Israel against launching a major military operation in Rafah, but his administration insisted Tuesday that Israel had not yet crossed its red lines.

"We have not seen them smash into Rafah," said the US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.

A civil defense official in Gaza said an Israeli strike on a displacement camp west of Rafah on Tuesday killed at least 21 people, after a similar strike over the weekend sparked global outrage and prompted the emergency UN Security Council session.

Israel's army rejected allegations that it had carried out Tuesday's strike in a designated humanitarian area.

"The (Israel army) did not strike in the humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi," the army said in a statement, referring to an area that had been designated for displaced people of Rafah to shelter.

Rafah tent massacre sparks global outcry

Fire rages following an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Fire rages following an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.  © REUTERS

On Sunday, an Israeli strike outside Rafah ignited an inferno in a displacement camp, torching makeshift shelters and killing 45 people, according to Palestinian officials.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the strike a "tragic accident," while the army claimed it had targeted a Hamas compound and killed two senior members of the group.

The military later said the weapons it had used "could not" have caused the deadly camp blaze.

Indiana man wins world record for insane nasal "flesh tunnel"
World Records Indiana man wins world record for insane nasal "flesh tunnel"

"Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size," Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for the Israeli army, said ahead of Tuesday's emergency UN session on the strike.

Algeria, which called the urgent meeting, said it had presented a draft resolution to Security Council members calling for an end to Israel's offensive in Rafah and an "immediate ceasefire," according to a draft text seen by AFP.

The UN Security Council was scheduled to discuss the situation again on Wednesday.

Sunday evening's strike, which medics said also wounded hundreds of civilians, drew worldwide condemnation.

The sight of the charred carnage, blackened corpses, and children being rushed to hospitals led UN chief Antonio Guterres to declare that "there is no safe place in Gaza. This horror must stop."

Biden administration claims it is not turning a "blind eye"

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby (r.) and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre field questions about an Israeli airstrike on a Rafah refugee camp.
White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby (r.) and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre field questions about an Israeli airstrike on a Rafah refugee camp.  © Chip Somodevilla / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

One million civilians have fled Rafah since Israel launched its assault on the city in early May, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Nearly eight months into the Gaza siege, Israel has faced ever louder opposition, as well as cases before two Netherlands-based international courts.

Last week, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to stop its Rafah assault.

The White House said Tuesday it is not turning a "blind eye" to the plight of Palestinian civilians, but it has no plans to change its Israel policy following the deadly weekend strike in Rafah.

"As a result of this strike on Sunday I have no policy changes to speak to," Kirby told a White House briefing. "It just happened, the Israelis are going to investigate it."

Kirby said "this is not something that we've turned a blind eye to" but added: "We have not seen them go in with large units, large numbers of troops, in columns and formations in some sort of coordinated maneuver against multiple targets on the ground."

The Biden administration continues to arm Israel, sending billions of dollars' worth of weapons to its military.

Israel has killed at least 36,096 people in Gaza since October, according to the occupied territory's health ministry.

Gaza's dire health toll expected to rise

A Palestinian woman walks past a damaged wall bearing the UNRWA logo at a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian woman walks past a damaged wall bearing the UNRWA logo at a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.  © Eyad BABA / AFP

On Tuesday, Gaza civil defense agency official Mohammad al-Mughayyir said 21 people were killed in an "occupation strike targeting the tents of displaced people" in west Rafah.

The health ministry in Gaza gave the same toll and said 64 people were wounded, 10 seriously.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, said it had suspended aid deliveries into Gaza by the sea after its temporary pier was damaged by bad weather.

The World Health Organization said Israel's military offensive in Rafah was already taking a dire health toll in southern Gaza, and if it continues, "substantial" increases in deaths could be expected.

"There are currently 60 WHO trucks (in Egypt) waiting to get into Gaza," said Rik Peeperkorn, WHO representative in the Palestinian territories, adding that only three trucks with medical supplies had entered since May 7.

On the diplomatic front, Egypt has "intensified efforts to relaunch" negotiations for a "truce and a detainee exchange deal," Al-Qahera News reported.

Cover photo: Eyad BABA / AFP

More on Israel-Gaza War: