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Faith Nyasuguta

At least 35 people have been killed after an Israeli airstrike hit tents housing displaced people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, Palestinian medics reported. This incident occurred hours after Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at Tel Aviv for the first time in months.

Footage from the scene revealed widespread destruction, with a large fire overtaking the area. The Israeli military stated that its air force targeted a Hamas compound using “precise ammunition and based on precise intelligence.” Despite an order from the UN’s top court to halt the assault due to the worsening humanitarian crisis, Israel has continued its offensive on the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip.

A spokesperson from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society indicated that the death toll might rise as search and rescue efforts continued in Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, about 1.2 miles (2km) northwest of the city center. 

Currently, numerous individuals remain trapped under the flames and in the tents destroyed by the bombardment,” the spokesperson said. The group also noted that the strike’s location had been designated by Israel as a humanitarian area, and citizens were coerced into evacuating to it.

The Red Cross reported that its field hospital in Rafah was overwhelmed with casualties, with other hospitals also taking in large numbers of patients. Israel has justified its ground operation in Rafah, claiming it is necessary to achieve “total victory” over Hamas, which it believes has its leadership and four battalions of fighters camped out there, using Israeli hostages as human shields.

Over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have sought refuge in Rafah during nearly nine months of fighting. About 1 million people have been forced to flee again since Israel began advancing into the southern and eastern parts of the city earlier this month. Aid deliveries have stalled as the Rafah border crossing and the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing, which connects Gaza with Israel, remain effectively blocked by fierce fighting.

/Al Jazeera/

Approximately 200 aid trucks were expected to enter Gaza through Kerem Shalom on Sunday after an agreement with Egypt, though it remained uncertain whether relief agencies would be able to reach them. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed Sunday’s strike on Rafah eliminated Hamas’s chief of staff for the West Bank and another senior official involved in deadly attacks on Israelis. They acknowledged reports of civilian casualties resulting from the strike and subsequent fire, stating that the incident is under review.

The deadly airstrike came hours after air raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and central Israel for the first time since January, following a salvo of eight rockets fired from the Rafah area. 

Despite Hamas’s diminished capacity to launch rockets and drones towards Israeli territory over the past eight months of conflict, Sunday’s barrage appeared to demonstrate that the group’s command and operational infrastructure remains intact. Most of the rockets were intercepted, but two women suffered minor injuries while seeking shelter. Several flights from Ben Gurion airport were delayed or canceled.

Hamas’s military wing, in a statement on its Telegram channel, said the rockets were launched in response to “Zionist massacres against civilians.” Earlier on Sunday, at least five Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Rafah, according to first responders.

Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, responded to the rocket attack with a post on X that said: “Rafah! With full force!” Meanwhile, the IDF denied claims that an Israeli soldier had been abducted by Hamas after unverified video footage appeared to show Palestinian fighters dragging an unconscious soldier through a tunnel.

In northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, residents reported ground fighting earlier on Sunday. Despite Israel’s claimed control over northern and central Gaza, Hamas has managed to regroup and launch attacks across these areas. 

Israel’s long-threatened plan to attack the border town of Rafah has faced significant opposition, even from staunch allies like the US. However, Washington’s stance has noticeably softened since the operation began.

The conflict has been devastating, with about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, killed in Hamas’s surprise assault on October 7, and a further 250 taken hostage. According to the Palestinian health ministry, nearly 36,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, though the figures do not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.


Efforts to broker a new truce have repeatedly failed. The last round of talks, mediated by the US, Egypt, and Qatar, reached a stalemate after Israel launched its Rafah operation. 

On Friday, US intelligence officials met with Israeli and Qatari delegations in Paris to attempt to restart negotiations. However, Hamas downplayed reports of progress, telling Reuters on Sunday that they had not received any new dates for the resumption of talks, contrary to Israeli media reports.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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