Israel accepts mistake as death toll from Rafah strike rises to 45

| Outraged by latest Israeli strike Macron calls for ceasefire | German foreign minister says ICJ ruling on Gaza is binding | EU to look into reviving Rafah mission | Israel must implement ICJ ruling on halting Rafah offensive, says EU foreign policy chief.

RAFAH   -   Gaza’s civil defence agency said Monday that the death toll had risen to 45 from overnight Israeli strikes that set ablaze tents of displaced Palestinians in Rafah, an attack that sparked condemnation across the Arab world.

Israel’s army said the air strikes late Sunday, hours after a rocket attack had targeted Tel Aviv, had killed two senior Hamas operatives, and that it was investigating the reports of civilians killed in a fire. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Sunday’s deadly Israeli airstrike on a Rafah camp had gone tragically wrong. “Despite our best effort, not to harm those not involved, unfortunately a tragic mistake happened last night. We are investigating the case,” Netanyahu said about the strike in a speech at the Israeli Knesset on Monday.

At least 45 people were killed and 200 wounded after the Israeli strike hit a camp for displaced people, according to the government media office in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it is investigating the airstrike that killed dozens of people in Rafah on Sunday, according to Gazan authorities. In a statement Monday, the IDF said its General Staff’s Fact-Finding and Assessment Mechanism had launched an investigation into the “circumstances of the deaths of civilians in the area of the strike.” The Israeli attack sparked strong protests from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and from Qatar which warned it could “hinder” budding steps to revive stalled truce and hostage release talks in the Israel-Hamas war raging since October 7.

Gaza’s civil defence agency said Monday that many bodies were “charred” after the strikes triggered a fire that ripped through a displacement centre in northwest Rafah. “The massacre committed by the Israeli occupation army in the refugee tents northwest of Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip has left 40 martyrs and 65 wounded,” said agency official Mohammad al-Mughayyir. “We saw charred bodies and dismembered limbs ... We also saw cases of amputations, wounded children, women and the elderly.” Footage released by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society showed chaotic night-time scenes of paramedics in ambulances racing to the fiery attack site and evacuating the wounded, including children.

“We had just done with the evening prayers,” recalled one survivor, a Palestinian woman who declined to be named. “Our children were asleep ... suddenly we heard a loud sound and there was fire all around us. The children were screaming ... the sound was terrifying.” French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged” over Israel’s strike on a camp for displaced people in Rafah on Sunday, which Gazan authorities say killed at least 45 people. “These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” Macron said Monday in a post on X. “I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” Macron added.

The strikes happened days after Macron welcomed the Foreign Ministers of Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Paris for talks on the situation in Gaza. Israel must abide by the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling to immediately halt its operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday.

 

 “Unhappily, what we have seen in the immediate hours is that Israel continues the military action that it has been asked to stop,” Borrell said ahead of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, where EU foreign ministers are meeting with Arab leaders to discuss Gaza and the Middle East.

The order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for Israel to halt its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah is “binding” and has “to be followed,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday.

“These provisional measures of the ICJ, they are binding and of course they have to be followed,” she told journalists in Brussels ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting. “We are currently experiencing the opposite. There have been more rockets on Tel Aviv from Hamas. And at the same time we see that it is no gain for Israel’s security, that no hostage will be freed when right now people are being burned in tents.”

Meanwhile, European Union has agreed in principle on Monday to revive an EU civilian mission in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says.

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