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Medical outcry over fatal Israeli airstrike on Rafah tent camp

Medical organisations have denounced Israel’s airstrike on Sunday (26 May) which hit an encampment for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, killing at least 45 people and overwhelming nearby hospitals.

Overnight bombing by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) ignited fires across the camp, spreading through tents and makeshift accommodation.

Videos of charred and dismembered children have prompted international outcry – while Spain, Norway and Ireland have today (28 May) formally recognised Palestinian statehood in an attempt to heighten diplomatic pressure on Israel.

The state on the ground in Rafah remains dire.

Following the IDF’s airstrike and subsequent fire, health officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross reported horrific scenes at the nearby field hospital.

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“We experienced first-hand the horror of this war, witnessing the appalling injuries and death,” says Sandy Inglis, Senior Medical Officer at the Red Cross’ 60-bed hospital, which was only opened two weeks ago.

“We had a mass casualty incident with about 30 patients, seven of them in critical condition with massive bleeding,” Inglis tells Hospital Management. “Nine patients had horrendous orthopaedic injuries.”

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) joined the Red Cross in condemning Israel’s airstrikes, saying it had treated “traumatic injuries and burns” at its Trauma Stabilisation Point in Tal al-Sultan, Gaza.

The WHO has warned for months that Gaza’s health system is broken, and more than one million Palestinians face severe famine. Israel’s blockade of food and medical supplies has compounded these concerns, with Amnesty International saying Gaza was “already in a coma” long before 7 October.

IDF claims “targeted” attack on “Hamas compound”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the airstrike as a “tragic mishap” but has vowed to continue the offensive in Rafah.

The IDF initially said it had carried out a precise airstrike on a “Hamas compound” targeting two senior officials.

As details of the airstrike, fires, injuries and deaths emerged, the IDF said it had opened an investigation into the civilian deaths.

That investigation was released earlier today (28 May), claiming to have killed two senior Hamas officials: Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar.

Palestinians carry the bodies of those killed during an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, at the Tel al-Sultan clinic in Rafah on 27 May. Credit: Ahmad Salem / Getty.

Chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the IDF is looking into the possibility that the missile struck a munitions dump. Hagari also claimed the strike was conducted using “the smallest munitions that our jets can use” or 17kg of explosive material.

Israel faces international condemnation

The IDF’s overnight strikes on Rafah came mere days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s top court, ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah Governorate.”

Nonetheless, airstrikes have persisted – while reports have surfaced today (28 May) that Israeli tanks have reached the centre of Rafah.

In an unprecedented first, the EU is now preparing to issue an ultimatum to Israel, POLITICO reported. Sources say that EU officials discussed sanctions for Israel if it refuses to stop the Rafah attacks at a meeting in Brussels yesterday (27 May).

Individual European countries have also been increasingly vocal against the atrocities seen over the last few days across the Gaza Strip.

Spain, Norway and Ireland’s formal recognition of a Palestinian state also marks a step up in diplomatic pressure on Netanyahu’s government – despite some onlookers saying it is too little too late. The trio join more than 140 countries which have already recognised Palestine, notably excluding the G7 countries: the US, UK, Canda, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

After mass protests across France, the head of the national assembly suspended the afternoon session of the lower house as Sebastien Delogue, an MP from the leftist Les Insoumis (LFI) party, waved a Palestinian flag to ringing applause.

In Canada, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said “Canada does not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah” in a post on the social media platform X.

Qatar, Egypt and Turkey also condemned Israel’s attack in the strongest terms.

The 45 Palestinians killed in Rafah join the growing tally of more than 1,200 Israelis and 35,000 Palestinians, the majority said to be children and women, killed since Israel launched its military offensive following Hamas’ murderous assault on October 7 last year.

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