Israel continues Rafah strikes after dozens killed in Sunday bombing

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A man looks on as smoke rises following Israeli strikes during an Israeli military operation in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 28, 2024. REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

By Nidal Al-Mughrabi Reuters

Israel pounded Rafah with airstrikes and tank fire on Tuesday, pressing its offensive in Gaza’s southern city despite international condemnation of an attack that sparked a blaze in a tent camp for the displaced, killing at least 45 people.

At least 16 Palestinians were killed in strikes overnight on Tuesday, officials in the enclave run by Hamas militants said. Israeli tanks pushed towards western neighbourhoods in one of the worst nights of bombardment reported by residents.

Reacting to Sunday night’s strike and fire in a camp where thousands of families displaced from assaults elsewhere in the Gaza Strip had sought shelter, global leaders urged the implementation of a World Court order to halt Israel’s assault.

Before the latest advancement, Israeli tanks had probed around the edges of Rafah, near the crossing point from Gaza into Egypt, and entered some of its eastern districts, residents said, but have not yet entered the city in full force.

Residents said Israeli tanks were stationed on and around the Zurub hilltop, a high ground overlooking western Rafah, having advanced from the area near the Egyptian border crossing where Israeli forces launched an incursion three weeks ago.

They said the Tel Al-Sultan area, the scene of Sunday’s deadly strike, was still being heavily bombarded.

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

Around one million people have fled the Israeli offensive in Rafah since early May, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported on Tuesday.

Israel has kept up attacks despite a ruling by the top U.N. court on Friday ordering it to stop, arguing that the court’s ruling grants it some scope for military action there.

Spain, Ireland and Norway will officially recognise a Palestinian state on Tuesday, despite an angry reaction from Israel, which has found itself increasingly isolated after more than seven months of conflict in Gaza.

The three nations have painted their decision as a way to speed efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel launched the operation after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel says it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.

In Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, one of the largest of the enclave’s eight historic refugee camps, Israeli forces have been engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, residents said.

On Tuesday, medics said an Israeli air strike killed and wounded several Palestinians in a house in the Falouja neighbourhood. Civil emergency teams said they believed many bodies were under the rubble of buildings where they can’t be reached.

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