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Israel hits displaced people in tent camp, Gaza officials say, killing 40

Dozens of people were killed in Rafah on Sunday evening after an Israeli airstrike hit an area where displaced civilians were sheltering in tents and sparked a fire that ravaged the camp, local officials said.

Footage showed the area engulfed in flames as screaming Palestinians fled for safety, with videos shared on social media showing disturbing images including badly burned corpses and a man holding what appears to be the body without head of a small child.

The strike was condemned by U.N. officials and Arab leaders just days after the U.N.’s top court ordered Israel to end its offensive on the southern Gaza city, where more than a million people had found refuge. Qatar warned it could hamper efforts to reach a ceasefire deal, while Israel’s military prosecutor said the “very difficult” incident was being investigated.

The Israeli military said it had targeted two senior Hamas leaders but would look into reports that the fires had spread to areas where civilians were sheltering.

NBC News was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground.

“They said it was safe.”

The Gaza Health Ministry reported that at least 35 people were killed in the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, the majority of them women and children. First responders had warned that the number of casualties could rise as many were trapped by flames that erupted following the bombing.

And on Monday, the Palestinian Civil Defense in Rafah said the death toll was at least 40 people.

“This massacre is the largest in the city of Rafah in months,” Palestinian Civil Defense spokesman Muhammad Al-Mughir told NBC News. He stressed that the affected area was a designated “humanitarian zone” next to UN warehouses.

An injured Palestinian was taken to Deir al Balah hospital in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday.Abdel Karim Hana / AP

A family has described their harrowing escape after the building they were sheltering in appeared to have been hit.

“Suddenly the windows shattered,” Hala Siam told the NBC News crew on the ground. “The children were scared. We all went out into the street.”

“They said it was safe,” Siam said of the area where she and her family were sheltering. “There is no safe place in Rafah.”

The Israeli military said its strike targeted two Hamas leaders who according to them, they were responsible for organizing terrorist attacks in the occupied West Bank. He said he was aware of reports that civilian tents had been set on fire during the strike and that the incident was “being investigated.”

“The strike was carried out against legitimate targets under international law,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that it used “precise munitions” based on “precise intelligence indicating that Hamas was using area”.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was targeting an area within a designated security zone.

Israel’s top military prosecutor called the incident “very difficult” and said an investigation was underway.

“The Israeli military regrets any harm caused to civilians not involved during the war,” Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer Yerushalmi said at a conference organized by the Israeli Bar Association.

In a statement, Hamas described the strike as a horrific “massacre”. He did not confirm the death of the commander or senior leader.

Earlier on Sunday, Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, announced a missile barrage on Israel aimed at Tel Aviv. The Israeli military said eight projectiles were identified as they passed through the Rafah area into Israeli territory and a number of projectiles were intercepted.

An NBC News reporter witnessed one of the interceptions after sirens warning of an imminent shooting sounded in Israel for the first time in several weeks. No casualties or damage were immediately reported in the area.

As video of Sunday night’s deadly Rafah attack was released, outrage grew within the international community, with mediators from Qatar and Egypt condemning the attack “in the strongest possible terms.” » and calling it a violation of international law.

Qatar, a key broker in negotiations with Hamas to reach a truce deal that would guarantee the release of hostages still held by Hamas, said Monday that the attack could jeopardize efforts for a ceasefire. -fire.

After weekend discussions involving CIA Director William Burns in Europe, an Israeli official told NBC News that the Israeli government hoped negotiations would resume this week.

A spokesperson for the US National Security Council said after Sunday’s strike: “We are aware of the reports and are gathering more information.” I should refer you to the IDF to discuss their operations.

Fires rage following an Israeli strike in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, on Sunday.Reuters Television / Reuters

At a press briefing last Wednesday before the International Court of Justice’s ruling, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Israeli military operations appeared to have been “more targeted and limited.”

He said he had been briefed by Israeli officials on plans to “achieve its military objectives while taking into account harm to civilians”, but said there was “no mathematical formula” to determine if Israel respected its commitment.

President Joe Biden had warned Israel against any large-scale attack on Rafah, threatening to suspend the shipment of certain weapons if it pursued a major offensive.

In its ruling, the ICJ said at least 800,000 people had been forced to flee the region after Israel launched ground operations there earlier this month, but many more remained .

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing international and domestic scrutiny over Israel’s conduct of the war, which it launched after the Hamas-led attack on October 7. Authorities estimated that 1,200 people were killed; around 250 other people were taken hostage, and around 125 are believed to remain captive in Gaza, around a quarter of whom are believed to have died.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza over the past seven months of war, according to local health authorities. Humanitarian groups have warned of catastrophic conditions for civilians who lack access to food and clean water, causing rampant spread of disease and possible famine in some areas of the enclave.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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