close
close

Israel denies strike on camp near Rafah, which Gaza officials say killed 21 people – Arab News Japan

RAFAH: The Israeli military denied on Tuesday setting up a tent camp west of the city of Rafah after Gaza health authorities said Israeli tank fire killed at least 21 people in an area Israel has designated as a civilian evacuation zone.

Earlier, despite an appeal from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israeli tanks reached the heart of Rafah for the first time after a night of heavy bombardment, while Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state, further deepening Israel’s international isolation.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah but said it did not believe such an operation was underway.

Two days after an Israeli airstrike on another camp that sparked global condemnation, Gaza emergency services said four tank shells hit a cluster of tents in Al-Mawasi, a coastal strip where Israel has advised civilians in Rafah to move for safety reasons.

According to doctors, at least 12 of the victims in the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas militants were women.

However, the Israeli military later said in a statement: “Contrary to reports over the last few hours, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) did not strike in the Al-Mawasi Humanitarian Area.”

Tuesday’s incident in Al-Mawasi took place in an area designated by Israel as an expanded humanitarian zone.

When Israel launched its invasion in early May, it urged Palestinian civilians in Rafah, including about a million displaced by the nearly eight-month war, to evacuate.

Tanks and armored vehicles equipped with machine guns were spotted in the center of Rafah, near the Al-Awda mosque, the city’s landmark, Reuters witnesses said. The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the Rafah area, without commenting on reports that troops were approaching the city center.

SCANDAL

International concern over the three-week-long Israeli offensive in Rafah turned into outrage after Sunday’s attack sparked a fire in a tent camp in the city’s western district, killing at least 45 people.

Israel said it targeted two senior Hamas officials and had no intention of causing civilian casualties.

World leaders expressed horror at the fire in a designated “humanitarian zone” in Rafah, where families displaced by fighting elsewhere had sought refuge, and called for the implementation of last week’s World Court ruling ordering an end to the Israeli attack.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that ammunition stored near the compound targeted by Sunday’s raid could ignite and cause a blaze.

Residents say the Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood in Rafah, the site of a Sunday night strike in which tents and shelters were set on fire as families went to bed, continues to be bombed.

“Tank shells are falling everywhere in Tel Al-Sultan. Many families fled their homes in western Rafah under fire during the night,” one resident told Reuters via a chat app.

The Biden administration said Tuesday it was closely monitoring the investigation into Sunday’s raid. US Vice President Kamala Harris said: “The word tragic doesn’t even begin to describe” what happened on Sunday.

But White House spokesman John Kirby said nothing happened in Sunday and Tuesday’s incidents that would cause the United States to withhold military aid to Israel.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres added his voice to the chorus condemning Sunday’s strike and again urged Israel to allow “the immediate, safe and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.”

In another blow to aid efforts, part of a U.S. Army pier off the coast of Gaza broke off, possibly due to bad weather, temporarily rendering it inoperable, two U.S. officials said. Since operations began two weeks ago, the United Nations has transported 137 aid trucks from the pier.

Spain, Norway and Ireland said they hoped their decision to recognize a Palestinian state would speed up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas militants, which has reduced much of the densely populated territory to rubble.

Egypt is trying again, together with Qatar and the United States, to resume talks on a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, but those efforts have been hampered by the Israeli attack on Rafah, the state-affiliated Al-Qahera News television channel in Cairo reported on Tuesday. , quoting a senior official.

Since early May, about a million people – many of whom have been repeatedly displaced by the changing tides of war – have fled Israel’s offensive in Rafah, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said on Tuesday.

TANKS

Israel took control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt three weeks ago. His tanks then entered some of the city’s eastern districts, but did not hit the center with full force beforehand.

On Tuesday, witnesses also reported shootings between Israeli soldiers and Hamas-led fighters in the area of ​​Zurub Hill in western Rafah.

Gaza’s health ministry says more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive. Israel launched an air and ground war after Hamas-led militants attacked communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli records.

Israel says it wants to root out the last large, intact formations of Hamas fighters massed in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.