Israeli Airstrikes in Rafah Kill 35 Civilians: Hamas Fires Rockets at Tel Aviv

Israeli Airstrikes in Rafah Kill 35 Civilians; Hamas Fires Rockets at Tel Aviv

Palestinians inspect the damage after the strike. Pic: Reuters

Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza city of Rafah have reportedly killed at least 35 people, mostly women and children, and injured dozens more. The attack occurred after Hamas launched rocket attacks towards Tel Aviv for the first time in months.

Palestinian medics reported that the strike hit tents for displaced people, resulting in heavy destruction. However, Israel’s military said it targeted a “Hamas compound” in Rafah, killing two senior Hamas militants. The military is investigating reports of civilian casualties.

Hamas condemned the attack on what it claimed was “an area crowded with hundreds of thousands of displaced people.” The strike took place in the Tel al Sultan neighborhood of western Rafah, where thousands of people were taking shelter after fleeing the eastern areas of the city due to a ground offensive by Israeli forces over two weeks ago.

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the death toll was likely to increase as search and rescue efforts continued. The society said the location had been designated by Israel as a “humanitarian area,” and people remain trapped amid the destruction.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement that the strike was carried out against legitimate targets under international law, using precise munitions and intelligence. The IDF is aware of reports indicating that civilians were harmed and is reviewing the incident.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, with Israel insisting it is key to its self-defense and its goal of destroying Hamas entirely.

Hamas Fires Rockets Towards Tel Aviv

The strike on Rafah comes after Hamas launched rocket attacks from Gaza towards Tel Aviv earlier on Sunday. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, although Palestinian militants have continued to sporadically fire rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border since then.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the attack. The Israeli military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces recently launched an incursion. Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted several of the missiles.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza via Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing for the first time since a new aid agreement was struck. Aid routes were rediverted after Egypt closed its side of the Rafah crossing over Israel’s decision to seize control of the Gaza side. It is unclear whether humanitarian groups will be able to access incoming aid because of ongoing fighting in Rafah.

Israeli Protests Over Hostages

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing pressure to make a deal with Hamas to free its remaining hostages after several bodies were recently recovered. Large protests occurred in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, with scuffles breaking out between protesters and police.

The Israel-Hamas war has killed almost 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The vast majority of Gaza’s two million-strong population has been displaced. Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October last year killed 1,200 people, with militants taking some 250 hostages, around 100 of whom remain in captivity in Gaza.

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