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“Nowhere Is Safe”: Israel Bombs Tent Camp in Rafah, Killing 45 Palestinians

The bombing came two days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to stop its assault on Rafah.

Palestinians in Gaza mourn relatives killed in an overnight Israeli strike on a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah on May 27, 2024.

International rights groups and leaders who for months have demanded a cease-fire in Gaza expressed renewed horror as images emerged from Israel’s Sunday bombing of a tent camp that had been set up by forcibly displaced Palestinians in Rafah, with women and children making up the majority of the 45 people who were reportedly killed in the attack.

Emergency workers told NBC News that the death toll was likely to rise, as many people had been trapped in the encampment as it was engulfed in flames.

NBC reported that the strike took place less than a mile away from a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facility, where at least 180 injured people arrived on Sunday.

“We are horrified by this deadly event, which shows once again that nowhere is safe,” said MSF on social media.

Muhammad Al-Mughir, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Civil Defense, told NBC that the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood that was attacked had been designated a “humanitarian area” in Rafah, from which more than 800,000 people have been forcibly displaced this month as Israel has launched a ground invasion. More than 1 million people have been forced to flee to Rafah since October, when Israel began its siege in Gaza.

The bombing came two days after the International Court of Justice issued its latest order to Israel regarding its assault on Gaza, telling the government that it “must immediately halt its military offensive or any other action in the Rafah governorate” and that the ICJ was not convinced by Israel’s claims that it was taking steps to protect civilians.

Israeli officials offered familiar statements regarding the attack, saying the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had been aiming for two senior Hamas leaders, that it had made efforts to prevent civilian harm, and that reports of the refugee camp going up in flames were “under review.”

Humanitarian leaders around the world were not convinced, with Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, saying Israel’s latest “cruelty, along with blatant defiance of the international law and system, is unacceptable.”

Albanese in March published a draft report describing Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as a genocide. The IDF has now killed at least 36,050 Palestinians as top Israeli officials have called for the “total annihilation” of cities in the enclave and have instructed the military to treat everyone in Gaza as a legitimate target.

The images out of Rafah on Sunday included videos of tents being engulfed in flames and charred corpses, and one showed a man holding up what appeared to be the body of a small child who had been beheaded. NBC News reported that it “was not able to independently verify the situation on the ground.”

Groups that have repeatedly condemned the assault on Gaza demanded that the U.S. government immediately end its financial and political support for Israel. The U.S. is the largest international funder of the IDF, and approved $17 billion more in military aid in April as President Joe Biden warned that a full-scale offensive in Rafah would be a “red line” that would force the White House to halt its support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This U.S.-backed massacre of civilians is a direct result of the Biden administration’s enduring political and military support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, on Monday. “The Palestinian child shown without a head would still be alive today had our government not offered Israel’s far-right government unceasing support for the slaughter of Palestinian civilians and the ethnic cleansing of Gaza. Those who support genocide are just as guilty as those who drop American-supplied bombs on civilians.”

Awad called on Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and the U.S. Congress to “show a shred of humanity and change course.”

As major news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post buried the news of the attack under unrelated stories, journalist Mehdi Hasan condemned the silence of the Biden administration and the “U.S. political and media establishments.”

“The (lack of) reaction to the scenes of sheer carnage, burned refugee bodies, and decapitated babies coming out of Rafah tonight from the U.S. political and media establishments is nothing other than the normalizing, the banalizing, of genocide,” said Hasan.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, directed ire at European Union leaders who have continued to back Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, demanding to know “how many more red lines must be crossed before the E.U. decides to act?”

Albanese said Israel must face “sanctions, justice, [and] suspension of agreements, trade, partnership, and investments” in order to pressure Netanyahu to halt his military operation.

“The Gaza genocide will not easily end without external pressure,” she said.

Hamza Yousaf, former first minister of Scotland and a member of Scottish Parliament, called on the international community to “bear witness to the images [in Tal al-Sultan] and ask yourself, are you on the right side of history?”

Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement, “We will never forget the images emerging from Rafah tonight. Human beings, including babies, were burned alive and torn apart. This genocide must end, it must end now.”

“The U.S. government has facilitated this genocide by continuously sending weapons and funding to the Israeli military, despite mass opposition from the American people,” the group added. “We hold the U.S. government, in addition to the Israeli government, responsible for the slaughter of over 36,000 Palestinians, for the siege and starvation of Palestinians in Gaza, and for mass destruction of infrastructure and land. We demand an end to all U.S. funding to the Israeli military now. People of conscience throughout the world are calling for an end to genocide.”

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