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At least 25 killed, 50 wounded in Israeli strikes on tent camps near Rafah, Gaza health officials say

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces shelled tent camps for displaced Palestinians outside Gaza’s southern city of Rafah on Friday, killing at least 25 people and wounding another 50, according to the territory’s health officials and emergency workers.

This was the latest deadly attack in the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands have fled fighting between Israel and Hamas. It comes less than a month after an Israeli bombing triggered a deadly fire that tore through a camp for displaced Palestinians in southern Gaza, drawing widespread international outrage — including from some of Israel’s closest allies — over the military’s expanding offensive into Rafah.

Witnesses whose relatives died in one of the bombardments near a Red Cross field hospital north of Rafah told The Associated Press that Israeli forces fired a second volley that killed people who came out of their tents.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the hospital was flooded with casualties, including 22 dead and 45 wounded, and condemned the firing of “high-caliber projectiles” a few yards from the facility. Hundreds of people live in tents nearby, including many of the hospital staff, the ICRC said.

According to Ahmed Radwan, a spokesperson for Civil Defense first responders in Rafah, witnesses told rescue workers about Friday’s shelling at two locations in a coastal area that has become filled with makeshift tents. The Health Ministry in Gaza reported the number of people killed and wounded in the attacks.

The locations of the attacks provided by the Civil Defense and the Red Cross hospital appear to be just outside an Israeli-designated safe zone on the Mediterranean coast, known as Muwasi. The Israeli military said the episode was under review but that “there is no indication that a strike was carried out by the IDF” inside the safe zone, using an acronym for Israel’s armed forces. It did not offer details on the episode or say what the intended targets might have been.

Israel has previously bombed locations in the vicinity of the “humanitarian zone” in Muwasi, a rural area with no water or sewage systems where displaced Palestinians have built tent camps in recent months.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that it tries to minimize civilian deaths. It blames the large number of civilian casualties on militants and says it’s because they operate among the population.

Image: grieve grief mourn family israeli hamas conflict
A Palestinian family mourn a loved one killed by Israeli bombardment, before the funeral in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, on June 21, 2024.Jehad Alshrafi / AP

With Israel’s war against Hamas now in its ninth month, international criticism is growing over the campaign of systematic destruction in Gaza, at a huge cost in civilian lives. The top United Nations court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

The attack near the Red Cross hospital began with a munition that only made a loud bang and bright flash, said Mona Ashour, who lost her husband after he went to investigate what was happening.

“We were in our tent, and they hit with a ‘sound bomb’ near the Red Cross tents, and then my husband came out at the first sound,” Ashour said, holding back tears while clutching a young girl outside Nasser Hospital in nearby Khan Younis.

“And then they hit with the second one, which was a little closer to the entrance of the Red Cross,” she said.

Hasan al-Najjar said his sons were killed helping people who panicked after the first strike.

”My two sons went after they heard the women and children screaming,” he said at the hospital. “They went to save the women, and they struck with the second projectile, and my sons were martyred. They struck the place twice.”

The hospital’s location is known to all parties in the conflict and marked with the Red Cross emblem, the ICRC noted on Friday. The 60-bed field hospital was opened in mid-May to provide emergency surgeries, obstetric, pediatric and outpatient care, according to a news release at the time, which shows white tents covering an area about the size of a soccer field.

Israel is pushing ahead with its invasion of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. Most have now fled the city, but the United Nations says no place in Gaza is safe and humanitarian conditions are dire as families shelter in tents and cramped apartments without adequate food, water, or medical supplies.

Elsewhere, Civil Defense teams in the northern Gaza Strip recovered the bodies of five people who were killed in an airstrike that hit two apartments in Gaza City, and several others were wounded. An airstrike earlier Friday hit a municipal garage in the city and killed five people.

Fadel Naeem, the orthopedic chief at al-Ahli hospital, said the bodies of 30 people were brought there Friday, calling it “a difficult and brutal day in Gaza City.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Friday that two soldiers were killed in combat in central Gaza. No information was given about the circumstances of the deaths of the two, both men in their 20s. Three other Israeli soldiers were severely injured, the army said.

Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Israel launched the war after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

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