Tragedy in Rafah: Israeli Tanks Shell Humanitarian Zone

At least 21 people were killed when Israeli tanks shelled a tent camp in a humanitarian zone in Rafah, according to Gaza health authorities. This incident follows another airstrike on a camp, which had already stirred global condemnation. The ongoing conflict has caused extensive civilian casualties and international outrage.

Reuters | Updated: 28-05-2024 21:41 IST | Created: 28-05-2024 21:41 IST
Tragedy in Rafah: Israeli Tanks Shell Humanitarian Zone
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Israeli tanks shelled a tent camp in an evacuation area west of Rafah and killed at least 21 people on Tuesday, Gaza health authorities said, while advancing to the heart of the southern Gaza city for the first time after a night of heavy bombardment. Two days after an Israeli airstrike on another camp stirred global condemnation, Gaza emergency services said four tank shells hit a cluster of tents in Al-Mawasi, a coastal strip that Israel had advised civilians in Rafah to move to for safety.

At least 12 of the dead were women, according to medical officials in the Hamas militant-run Palestinian enclave. An Israeli military spokesperson said: "As of this time, we are not aware of this incident." In central Rafah, tanks and armoured vehicles mounted with machineguns were spotted near Al-Awda mosque, a city landmark, witnesses told Reuters. The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the Rafah area, without commenting on reported advances into the city centre.

International unease over Israel's three-week-old Rafah offensive has turned to outrage after an attack on Sunday set off a blaze in a tent camp in a western district of the city, killing at least 45 people. Israel said it had targeted two senior Hamas operatives and had not intended to cause civilian casualties.

Global leaders voiced horror at the fire in a designated "humanitarian zone" of Rafah where families uprooted by fighting elsewhere had sought shelter, and urged the implementation of a World Court order last week for a halt to Israel's assault. Later on Tuesday, the Israeli military said it was

investigating the possibility that munitions stored near a compound targeted by Sunday's airstrike may have ignited and touched off the blaze.

Tuesday's attack in Al-Mawasi occurred in an area designated by Israel as an expanded humanitarian zone. Israel had urged civilians in Rafah to evacuate there when it launched its incursion in early May. In a diplomatic move purportedly aimed at reining in the violence, Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognised a Palestinian state on Tuesday, deepening Israel's international isolation over the war.

The three countries have said they hope their decision will accelerate efforts towards securing a ceasefire in Israel's war against Hamas militants, which is now in its eighth month and has reduced much of the densely populated territory to rubble. Residents said Rafah's Tel Al-Sultan neighbourhood, the scene of Sunday's night-time strike in which tents and shelters were set ablaze as families settled down to sleep, was still being 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 via a chat app. Around one million people - many repeatedly displaced by shifting waves of the war - have fled the Israeli offensive in Rafah since early May, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported on Tuesday.

A video obtained by Reuters showed families on the move again, carrying their belongings through Rafah's shattered streets, their weary children trailing behind them. "There are a lot of attacks, smoke and dust. It is death from God... The (Israelis) are hitting everywhere. We're tired," said Moayad Fusaifas, pushing along belongings on two bicycles.

Egypt is again trying in tandem with Qatar and the U.S. to revive talks on a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, but efforts have been hampered by Israel's assault on Rafah, Cairo's state-affiliated Al-Qahera News TV channel said on Tuesday, citing a senior official.

TANKS Since Israel launched its incursion by seizing control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt three weeks ago, tanks had probed around the outskirts and entered some eastern districts but had not yet rumbled into the city in full force.

In recent days, Israeli tanks have thrust towards western neighbourhoods and taken up positions on the Zurub hilltop in western Rafah. On Tuesday, witnesses reported gunbattles between Israeli troops and Hamas-led fighters in the Zurub area. Witnesses in central Rafah said the Israeli military appeared to have brought in remote-operated armoured vehicles and there was no immediate sign of personnel in or around them. An Israeli military spokesperson had no immediate comment.

The Israeli military said it operated overnight along the Philadelphi Corridor that separates Gaza from Egypt and troops were engaged in close-quarter combat, locating tunnel shafts, weapons and militant infrastructure. Israel has kept up attacks despite the May 24 ruling by the International Court of Justice ordering it to stop, given a high risk of civilian casualties. Israel has argued that the top U.N. court's decision left it some scope for military action there.

The ICJ also reiterated calls for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas. More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's offensive, Gaza's health ministry says. Israel launched its air and ground war 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 the last major intact formations of Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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