Israel’s counter strike on Rafah: Toll rises to 45; complicates truce talks, hostage negotiations

World leaders condemned Israeli strike on civilians

Israel Rafah strike Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip | AP

The death toll from the Israeli strike on a camp for displaced Palestinian people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah rose to 45 on Sunday. 

The attack, which took place in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood, was condemned by world nations urging Tel Aviv to put an end to targeting the civilians in Rafah. 

According to the Gaza health ministry, more than half of those who were killed include women and children. The toll is likely to rise as more people caught in the blaze were in critical condition with severe burns. Reportedly, Rafah civilians died from the fire that broke out after the Israeli strike on Hamas chiefs. 

Israel's top military prosecutor said an investigation was underway relating to the incident. 

“We pulled out people who were in an unbearable state," Mohammed Abuassa, who rushed to the scene, was quoted by the Associated Press. “We pulled out children who were in pieces. We pulled out young and elderly people. The fire in the camp was unreal,” he added.  

Amid international outrage, Netanyahu has described the Rafah strike as a "tragic mishap". “We are investigating the case, that is our policy,” Netanyahu said in a speech at the Knesset on Monday, Haaretz reported.

Netanyahu added that “for us, every uninvolved [being hurt] is a tragedy,” it added. He claimed the incident occurred “despite our best efforts not to hurt them”.

World leaders condemn the attack

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief said that he is "horrified by news coming out of Rafah on Israeli strikes killing dozens of displaced persons, including small children.”

“I condemn this in the strongest terms,” he said, adding: “There is no safe place in Gaza. These attacks must stop immediately. ICJ orders & IHL must be respected by all parties,” said Borrell.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also condemned the incident. The foreign ministry in a statement stressed the importance of implementing the International Court of Justice's ruling. The top UN court ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive. 

Italy, an ally of Israel, also said that the attack against civilians in Gaza was 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,” the country’s defence minister, Guido Crosetto, told SkyTG24 TV.

The French President Emmanuel Macron was "outraged" by the Israeli air strikes. “These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian citizens. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” he wrote in a tweet on X.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, Egypt's military said one of its soldiers was shot dead during an exchange of fire in the Rafah area, without providing further details. Israel said it was in contact with Egyptian authorities, and both sides said they were investigating.

Israel’s latest strike on Rafah comes after Hamas launched a series of rockets targeting Tel Aviv on Sunday. However, no injuries were reported as several rockets were intercepted. 

The recent strikes are likely to complicate the cease-fire talks and the release of hostages held by Hamas. Qatar, a key mediator between Israel and Hamas, said that the strike could complicate talks, and negotiations, which were to restart this week. 

Israel was blamed for committing a “war crime” by Jordan. Earlier, Israel denied allegations of genocide brought against it by South Africa at the ICJ. However, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seeking arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders, over alleged war crimes. 

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