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Egypt Condemns Rafah Attacks, Netanyahu Says Deaths “Tragic”

May 27, 2024
Site of an Israeli strike in Rafah on Monday 27 May 2024. Eyad Baba/AFP via Getty Images

The Egyptian government has issued a strong condemnation of the recent Israeli shelling of refugee tents in the Palestinian city of Rafah, which resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries on Monday, May 27. This act, Egypt asserted, is a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention concerning the protection of civilians in times of war.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt described the attack as a continuation of the systematic targeting of unarmed civilians, aimed at expanding the scope of killing and destruction in the Gaza Strip to make it uninhabitable. The statement emphasized Egypt’s demand for Israel to comply with its legal obligations as an occupying power and to implement measures issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which includes the immediate cessation of military operations in Rafah.

The Egyptian government has also called on the international community to fulfill its legal and humanitarian responsibilities to protect Palestinian civilians and prevent them from being exposed to life-threatening dangers. This latest incident has also raised concerns from Qatar, which has been actively mediating to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas. Qatar’s foreign ministry warned that the bombing could complicate ongoing mediation efforts and hinder reaching a permanent ceasefire agreement.

Other Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have joined in condemning the attack, accusing Israel of committing “blatant war crimes and unprecedented genocide.” Jordan echoed these sentiments, stating that the bombardment defies the ICJ’s rulings and constitutes a severe violation of international law and humanitarian principles.

Netanyahu Calls Deaths “Tragic Mishap”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the growing international condemnation by describing the strike as a “tragic mishap.”

Speaking in the Israeli parliament, Netanyahu stressed that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used their best efforts to avoid harming civilians and that the incident is under investigation. Despite this, he vowed to continue the military campaign against Hamas until all goals are achieved, highlighting the complexities of the ongoing conflict. Israel said, regarding the strike which killed at least 45 civilians according to Gaza health authorities, that two Hamas commanders had been killed in a “precision strike”.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that the airstrike targeted tents for displaced people near a UN facility in Tal al-Sultan, about 2km northwest of Rafah’s center. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed that its facilities received at least 28 dead, including women and children, and treated another 180 wounded Palestinians, most suffering from serious shrapnel wounds, fractures, and burns.  The MSF called for an immediate and sustained ceasefire in a statement on Monday, adding that the airstrike “shows the complete disregard for the lives of civilians in Gaza”.

International organizations, including the European Union and the United Nations, have condemned the strike. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, called the attack “horrifying” and urged Israel to respect the ICJ’s ruling. UN human rights chief Volker Turk expressed concern that there had been no apparent change in Israel’s methods of warfare.

In the wake of the attack, the United States reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, pointing to the killing of two Hamas commanders, but added that Israel must take every precaution to protect civilians.

Since 7 October, over 35,000 people – many of them children and women – have been reported killed in the seven-month-long conflict, according to the latest data reported by WAFA Agency. An additional 79,000 were injured with many more trapped under rubble caused by Israeli airstrikes.

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