Advertisement

Israel PM admits ‘tragic mistake’ after strike on tent camp

The blackened aftermath of Israel's attack in Rafah.

The blackened aftermath of Israel's attack in Rafah. Photo: Getty

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says an Israeli airstrike that triggered a deadly blaze in a Gaza refugee camp was a “tragic mistake”.

Forty-five people were killed when an inferno broke out and tore through a tent city sheltering families and children in the city of Rafah.

Horrifying images of charred and dismembered bodies – and reports of children being pulled out “in pieces” – have sparked condemnation from global leaders.

The tents were housing Palestinians displaced from their homes because of Israel’s offensive.

“We pulled out people who were in an unbearable state,” Mohammed Abuassa told the Associated Press.

“We pulled out children who were in pieces. We pulled out young and elderly people. The fire in the camp was unreal.”

More than half of the dead were women, children, and elderly people, health officials in Hamas-run Gaza said, adding that the death toll was likely to rise from people with severe burns.

On Tuesday morning (AEST), Netanyahu insisted that Israel’s army had used its “best efforts” not to harm civilians while targeting Hamas.

“In Rafah we already evacuated about one million non-combatant residents and despite our utmost effort not to harm non-combatants, something unfortunately went tragically wrong,” he said.

“We are investigating the incident and will reach conclusions because this is our policy.”

In scenes grimly familiar from a war in its eighth month, Palestinian families rushed to hospitals to prepare their dead for burial after the strike late on Sunday night (local time).

Survivors said families were preparing to sleep when the strike hit.

“We were praying … and we were getting our children’s beds ready to sleep. There was nothing unusual, then we heard a very loud noise, and fire erupted around us,” said Umm Mohamed Al-Attar, a Palestinian mother in a red headscarf.

“All the children started screaming… The sound was terrifying; we felt like the metal was about to collapse on us, and shrapnel fell into the rooms.”

The attack took place in the Tel Al-Sultan neighbourhood, where thousands were sheltering after Israeli forces began a ground offensive in the east of Rafah over two weeks ago.

Video footage obtained by Reuters showed a fire raging in the darkness and people screaming in panic.

A group of young men tried to haul away sheets of corrugated iron and a hose from a single fire truck began to douse the flames.

Israel’s military said Sunday’s strike, based on “precise intelligence”, had eliminated Hamas’ chief of staff for the second and larger Palestinian territory, the West Bank, plus another official behind attacks on Israelis.

That followed the interception of eight rockets fired towards Israel from the Rafah area.

Israel has kept up attacks despite a ruling by the top UN court on Friday ordering it to stop, arguing that the court’s ruling grants it some scope for military action there.

Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin on Rafah

Source: X

Global outrage

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged” over Israel’s latest attacks.

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” he said on X.

Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the International Court of Justice ruling must be respected.

“International humanitarian law applies for all, also for Israel’s conduct of the war,” Baerbock said.

By daylight, the camp was a smoking wreckage of tents, twisted metal and charred belongings.

Women wept and men held prayers beside bodies in shrouds.

Sitting beside bodies of his relatives, Abed Mohammed Al-Attar said Israel lied when it told residents they would be safe in Rafah’s western areas. His brother, sister-in-law and several other relatives were killed in the blaze.

“The army is a liar. There is no security in Gaza. There is no security, not for a child, an elderly man, or a woman. Here he (my brother) is with his wife, they were martyred,” he said.

“What have they done to deserve this? Their children have been orphaned.”

Hospitals in Rafah, including the International Committee of the Red Cross field hospital, were unable to handle all the wounded, so some were moved to hospitals in Khan Younis further north in Gaza for treatment, medics said.

Among the 45 victims were children and the elderly. Photo: Getty

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs based in the West Bank condemned “the heinous massacre.”

Israeli tanks continued to bombard eastern and central areas of the city in southern Gaza on Monday, killing eight, local health officials said. In Al-Nuseirat camp in central Gaza Strip, an Israeli attack killed three Palestinian police officers, Gaza’s Hamas-run interior ministry said.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel launched the operation after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel says it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.

But it faces global condemnation for failing to spare civilian lives.

-with AAP

Advertisement
Advertisement
Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.