American-Israeli bombs incinerate women and children in Gaza’s ‘safe zone’

May 29, 2024
Gaza, Gaza, Palestine. 3rd May, 2024. Tents for displaced people are piled up in the city of Rafah, which is threatened by a nearby military operation (Credit Image: © Saher Alghorra/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!

In a calculated and vicious attack Israel bombed an area in Rafah, Gaza designated as a “safe zone’ by the Israeli military, incinerating women and children and leaving flimsy plastic tents burning in a horrifying conflagration.

This inferno was fuelled by the plastic and blanket tents, the only shelter available. The attack took place in the Tal as-Sultan area in Rafah, designated a ‘safe zone’ by the Israeli Defence Force, killing at least 45 or more people, burning and injuring many more. “Our children were asleep … suddenly we heard a loud sound and there was fire all around us. The children were screaming … the sound was terrifying,” a distraught woman reported. The fuel shortage, caused by border closures, as well as the many destroyed roads, often by Israeli tanks, hindered civil defence vehicles reaching the area. There was also a shortage of water to extinguish the fires. Israel controls how much water can enter Gaza and much of the water infrastructure has been destroyed.

Other bomb attacks that took place in the Jabalia, Nuseirat and Gaza City areas have killed up to 160 people in the past 24 hours. These attacks are the most damaging since the IDF invaded Rafah on May 7 according to Gaza officials.

As Israel invaded the eastern area of Rafah over 800,000 displaced Palestinians fled to the western and northern areas under IDF orders, to areas already very crowded, living in makeshift tents mostly made of plastic and cloth so that the bombs dropped directly on this area caused an immediate incineration. Rescue workers were delayed by up to 40 minutes as they desperately sought fuel, in chronic short supply under Israeli failure to open border crossings. The response situation was further hampered by the lack of fully functioning hospitals in Rafah where there is only a critical medical centre with 8 beds incapable of treating severe injuries. The last of these hospitals in Rafah was closed on Monday after a further attack killed two medical personnel standing at the entrance to the hospital. All patients, many of them from the previous day’s incineration, had to be transferred to the ICRC and another field hospital, both of which have limited facilities. This situation will directly affect those who have been severely burned in the attack on Sunday with their situation made more critical with the Rafah border crossing closed.

This vicious deliberate bombing of designated ‘safe zones’ came just hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Ruling ordered Israel to cease its invasion of Rafah city, to open the Rafah border crossing and to facilitate the movement of people and humanitarian aid. The Israeli extremist and nationalist Knesset members, including a number of messianic settlers have completely rejected the ICJ’s rulings and according to Israeli Channel 12:

‘Netanyahu stated that “occupying Rafah and increasing military pressure on Hamas” is the proper response to the Court’s decision, which he called “antisemitic”. While the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir responded, “Our future does not depend on what the gentiles say, but rather on what we Jews do.”’

These and all previous bombings where civilians are killed and maimed are violations of international humanitarian law and are classified as war crimes under the Rome Statute. Israel completely ignored the Court ruling, intensifying its bombing campaign, pushing into the central and western parts of Rafah, and taking most of the city along the border strip, the Philadelphi Corridor – long being a target of the Netanyahu government. When this is completed the IDF will have encircled the Gaza Strip and will also be able to ensure that no tunnels or border routes, not in their control, exist for the people of Gaza. The tension along this corridor resulted in military clashes Monday (27-5-2024) between the IDF and Egyptian forces resulting in the killing of one Egyptian soldier, further complicating the opening of the Rafah crossing. These actions by Israel are a clear violation of the Peace Treaty with Egypt in September 1978 and the later Philadelphi Accord when Israel left Gaza in 2005. It threatens both the Treaty and Accord.

The response of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the horrific massacre on Sunday was to say that this was a ‘tragic mistake’, that will be ‘investigated’ while the US, wringing its hands as usual and doing nothing to stop these massacres, commented that it was ‘devastating and heartbreaking’. No doubt the response from Australian politicians will be along the same pathetic lines when so many across Australia and across the world are calling out for action from ours and word leaders to stop this ongoing genocide of Palestinians.

The military action in Rafah so far has resulted in over 170 housing units destroyed, with entire neighbourhoods destroyed and reduced to rubble. Also, both the World Food Program warehouse and the UNRWA distribution centre in Rafah are inaccessible due to military action in those areas. In addition, the closure of the Rafah crossing means that sick and injured people seeking to receive medical treatment abroad cannot travel. Israel’s program of starvation of the civilian population continues as it deliberately denies food entry into Gaza. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), during the period between May 20 to 22 only 39 trucks entered the Strip via the Israeli Kerem Shalom and Rafah land crossings. Only 143 trucks have entered the Gaza strip via the Karem Abu Salem crossing since 6–20 May, after the Rafah invasion, denying people of essential water, food and fuel. Prior to the invasion on October 8th over 500 trucks entered Gaza per day.

A further complication is the attacks by Israeli settlers supported by the IDF on food and other aid trucks coming into Gaza via the Jordanian corridor that passes near Hebron. There have been several incidences where settlers have stopped trucks, looted and destroyed them and attacked and injured drivers all under the watchful eyes of the IDF.

The large movement of people from Rafah fleeing the fighting, as well as from the north as Israel continues its attacks on the Jabalia camp, has resulted in people being displaced for the fourth or fifth time. Each of these movements is made extremely difficult with lack of fuel and transport needed to carry tents and other necessary items. In addition, both the lack of space available to build their flimsy shelters inside Gaza makes such movement all the more fraught.

OCHA continues to report on the lack of fuel necessary for water production, treatment, distribution, and solid waste management resulting in massive mounds of waste in temporary dumping sites. These sites with flies and mosquitoes are causing significant health problems including a surge of communicable diseases, such as skin rashes, diarrhoea, and hepatitis A. A further complication in undertaking any assistance programs in Gaza is the network outages of both the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The military operations also prevent repairs being undertaken to enable the network to function. Networks are now operating only at 40-50 per cent of available capacity. The border closures also impact on this life saving communication network with 20 satellite phones, four VHF repeaters, four solar powered solutions and 50 VHF handheld radios having been approved by the Israeli authorities since 7 October 2023.

As Israel continues to ignore the ICJ’s orders and progresses with its plan to completely obliterate all of Gaza, killing, massacring and incinerating its population, we are yet to hear, apart from the courageous words of Western Australian Senator Fatima Payman, a strong condemnation from the Australian government, other then saying Israel must obey international rules of war which it clearly has not done these past eight months. Have we all missed something? Is the government so busy wedging the opposition that it has lost its moral compass? When will Australia join South Africa’s application to the ICJ, or say that it will implement the ICCs rulings on the named Israeli leaders as we are obliged to do under the Convention? When will we see action on what the ACTU and the Jewish Council of Australia and others are calling the government to do. To clearly and strongly call for a permanent ceasefire; to end all Australian military trade with Israel; to implement targeted sanctions on Israeli officials, military and civil servants who have denied aid and contributed to starvation in Gaza.

Perhaps the government needs to be reminded of the words of the late Archbishop Tutu

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.


For more on this topic, P&I recommends:

BREAKING: Horrendous images of burnt children after Israel bombs Rafah refugee camp [Graphic content]

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