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Israeli Gaza Strikes Kill at Least 37  05/29 06:18

   

   DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israeli shelling and airstrikes killed at 
least 37 people, most of them sheltering in tents, outside the southern Gaza 
city of Rafah overnight and on Tuesday -- pummeling the same area where strikes 
triggered a deadly fire days earlier in a camp for displaced Palestinians -- 
according to witnesses, emergency workers and hospital officials.

   The tent camp inferno has drawn widespread international outrage, including 
from some of Israel's closest allies, over the military's expanding offensive 
into Rafah. And in a sign of Israel's growing isolation on the world stage, 
Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday.

   The Israeli military suggested Sunday's blaze in the tent camp may have been 
caused by secondary explosions, possibly from Palestinian militants' weapons. 
The results of Israel's initial probe into the fire were issued Tuesday, with 
military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari saying the cause of the fire was 
still under investigation but that the Israeli munitions used -- targeting what 
the army said was a position with two senior Hamas militants -- were too small 
to be the source.

   The strike or the subsequent fire could also have ignited fuel, cooking gas 
canisters or other materials in the camp. The blaze killed 45 Palestinians, 
according to Gaza health officials' count. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 
Netanyahu said the fire was the result of a "tragic mishap."

   Israel's assault on Rafah, launched May 6, spurred more than 1 million 
people to flee the city, the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees said 
Tuesday. Most were already displaced multiple times in the nearly eight-month 
war between Israel and Hamas. Families are now scattered across makeshift tent 
camps and other war-ravaged areas.

   The strikes over the past few days have hit areas west of Rafah, where the 
military had not ordered civilians to evacuate. Israeli ground troops and tanks 
have been operating in eastern Rafah, in central parts of the city, and along 
the Gaza-Egypt border.

   Shelling late Monday and early Tuesday hit Rafah's western Tel al-Sultan 
district, killing at least 16 people, the Palestinian Civil Defense and the 
Palestinian Red Crescent said. Seven of the dead were in tents next to a U.N. 
facility about about 200 meters (yards) from the site of Sunday's fire.

   "It was a night of horror," said Abdel-Rahman Abu Ismail, a Palestinian from 
Gaza City who has been sheltering in Tel al-Sultan since December. He said he 
heard "constant sounds" of explosions overnight and into Tuesday, with fighter 
jets and drones flying above.

   He said it reminded him of the Israeli invasion of his neighborhood of 
Shijaiyah in Gaza City, where Israel launched a heavy bombing campaign before 
sending in ground forces in late 2023. "We saw this before," he said.

   The United States and other allies of Israel have warned against a 
full-fledged offensive in the city, with the Biden administration saying this 
would cross a "red line" and refusing to provide offensive arms for such an 
undertaking. On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller gave no 
indication the administration sees Israel as crossing any of the red lines for 
Rafah, saying the offensive is still on a "far different" scale than assaults 
on other population centers in Gaza.

   The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah 
offensive last week as part of South Africa's case accusing Israel of 
committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza.

   A proposed U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a halt to the fighting 
in Rafah was being circulated by Algeria on Tuesday, with plans to potentially 
bring it to a vote this week. The U.S. has vetoed multiple Gaza cease-fire 
resolutions.

   On Tuesday afternoon, an Israeli drone strike hit tents near a field 
hospital by the Mediterranean coast west of Rafah, killing at least 21 people, 
including 13 women, Gaza's Health Ministry said.

   A witness, Ahmed Nassar, said his four cousins and some of their husbands 
and children were killed in the strike and a number of tents were destroyed or 
damaged. Most of those living there had fled from the same neighborhood in Gaza 
City earlier in the war.

   "They have nothing to do with anything," he said.

   Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead in Rafah, saying Israeli forces must 
enter the city to dismantle Hamas and return hostages taken in the Oct. 7 
attack that triggered the war.

   In its investigation of Sunday's deadly strike and fire, the Israeli 
military released satellite photos of what it said was a Hamas rocket launch 
position about 40 meters (yards) from an area of sheds that was targeted. In 
the photo, the alleged launcher itself did not appear to have been struck.

   He said Israeli warplanes used the smallest bombs possible -- two munitions 
with 17-kilogram (37-pound) warheads. "Our munition alone could not have 
ignited a fire of this size," he said.

   Hagari said that the fire was "a devastating incident which we did not 
expect" and ignited due to "unforeseen circumstances."

   Still, the strikes have triggered a flight of people from areas west of 
Rafah. Sayed al-Masri, a Rafah resident, said many families were heading to the 
crowded Muwasi area or to Khan Younis, a southern city that suffered heavy 
damage during months of fighting.

   "The situation is worsening" in Rafah, al-Masri said.

   Gaza's Health Ministry said two medical facilities in Tel al-Sultan are out 
of service because of intense bombing nearby. Medical Aid for Palestinians, a 
charity operating throughout the territory, said the Tel al-Sultan medical 
center and the Indonesian Field Hospital were under lockdown with medics, 
patients and displaced people trapped inside.

   Most of Gaza's hospitals are no longer functioning. Rafah's Kuwait Hospital 
shut down Monday after a strike near its entrance killed two health workers.

   A spokesperson for the World Health Organization said the casualties from 
Sunday's strike and fire "absolutely overwhelmed" field hospitals in the area, 
which were already running short on supplies to treat severe burns.

   "That requires intensive care, that requires electricity, that requires 
high-level medical services," Dr. Margaret Harris told reporters in Geneva. 
"Increasingly, we are struggling to even have the high-level skilled doctors 
and nurses because they've been displaced."

   The war began when Hamas and other militants burst into southern Israel in a 
surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 civilians and abducting around 
250. More than 100 were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November in 
exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

   Israel responded to the attack with a massive air, land and sea offensive 
that has killed at least 36,096 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health 
Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its 
count. Around 80% of Gaza's population of 2.3 million has been displaced and 
U.N. officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

   The fighting in Rafah has made it nearly impossible for humanitarian groups 
to import and distribute aid to southern Gaza.

   The Israeli military says it has allowed hundreds of trucks to enter through 
the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing since the start of its operation, but aid 
groups say it's extremely difficult to access that aid on the Gaza side because 
of the fighting.

   The U.N. says it has only been able to collect aid from around 170 trucks 
over the past three weeks via Kerem Shalom. Smaller amounts of aid were also 
entering through two crossings in the north and by sea through a U.S.-built 
floating pier, but it's nowhere near the 600 trucks a day that aid groups say 
are needed. And the pier is being removed for repairs.

 
 
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