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Israel's airstrikes on Rafah's displacement camp condemned; toll climbs to 45

IDF investigating reports were reports of a strike and a fire that spread into a camp for displaced Palestinians. The military said it was investigating and is "committed to seeing it through to conclusion."

By Allen Cone
Firefighters put out a fire following an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced Palestinians, Al-Mawasi area, west of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Photo by Palestinian Civil Defense/UPI
1 of 3 | Firefighters put out a fire following an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced Palestinians, Al-Mawasi area, west of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Photo by Palestinian Civil Defense/UPI | License Photo

May 27 (UPI) -- The death toll from an Israeli Defense Force attack on a displacement camp in city of Rafah grew to 45 on Monday as nations condemned the airstrikes, including France, Turkey and Egypt.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said the attacks Sunday night were carried out over "displaced persons' tents near the United Nations headquarters northwest of Rafah," saying that the location was designated as a humanitarian zone by Israel, The Times of Israel reported.

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The Hamas-run health ministry claimed that most of the casualties were women and children.

Around half of the population was estimated to have been sheltering in Rafah until May 6 when the IDF began its controversial military operation in the city.

Video obtained by CNN shows people digging through rubble and removing debris near a collapsed building.

The IDF said a Hamas compound was struck in the Tel Sultan area of northwestern Rafah where senior officials in the terror group were gathered. "The attack was carried out against terrorists who are a target for attack, in accordance with international law, using precision munitions, and based on intelligence indicating the use of the area by Hamas terrorists," IDF said,

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IDF noted that there were reports of a strike and a fire that spread into a camp for displaced Palestinians. The military said it was investigating and is "committed to seeing it through to conclusion."

"Despite our efforts not to hurt them, there was a tragic mishap. We are investigating the incident," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. "For us it's a tragedy, for Hamas, it's a strategy."

A spokesman for the National Security Council spokesperson the United States is "actively engaging" with officials in Israel to determine what precisely happened.

"The devastating images following the IDF strike in Rafah last night that killed dozens of innocent Palestinians are heartbreaking," the spokesperson, who went unnamed, said in a statement. "Israel has a right to go after Hamas, and we understand this strike killed two senior Hamas terrorists who are responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians. But as we've been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians."

IDF later said the strike killed Yassin Rabia, the commander of Hamas's so-called West Bank headquarters, and Khaled Najjar, another senior member. This Hamas unit is charged with advancing attacks against Israel from or in the West Bank.

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Hours earlier, Hamas fired rockets at Tel Aviv for the first time in months.

Officials from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority said the attacks were deliberate.

"In light of the horrific Zionist massacre this evening committed by the criminal occupation army against the tents of the displaced ... we call on the masses of our people in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the occupied territories and abroad to rise up and march angrily against the ongoing Zionist massacre against our people in the sector," Hamas said in a statement.

The West Bank-based office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the strike a "heinous massacre," and "deliberately targeting" the tents of displaced people.

The United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees described the situation in Gaza as "hell on earth."

"Information coming out of Rafah about further attacks on families seeking shelter is horrifying," UNRWA said. "There are reports of mass casualties including children and women among those killed."

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "outraged" about the strike.

"These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians," Macron said Monday in a post on X.

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"I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire," Macron added.

Days earlier, Macron welcomed the Foreign Ministers of Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Paris for talks on the situation in Gaza.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his nation "will do everything" to hold Israeli officials accountable after the strike.

"As Turkey, we will do everything in our power to hold these killers, who do not have a shred of humanity, accountable," Erdogan said in a post on X.

Erdogan said the strike was "a massacre which took place after the International Court of Justice's call to halt the attacks" and called Israel a "terrorist state."

"As Netanyahu and his murder network fail to break the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people, they are becoming increasingly backed into a corner in their own country, trying to extend their political life by spilling more blood," he added. "But they will soon see that this doesn't do any good."

Egypt, which condemned the strike, will host another round of indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas on Tuesday.

Qatar said the strike could "hinder" negotiations aiming for the release of hostages and reaching a ceasefire in Gaza.

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