Editorial: New massacre exposes Israel

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 28 May 2024

Israel’s occupation army committed yet another horrific massacre late Sunday, when it killed 45 and wounded 250 displaced civilians by bombing their tents in a so-called safe zone in western Rafah.


Along with practically the whole world, Egypt had warned against Israel’s military operation in Rafah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu, as always, lied to the world and Israel’s partner in this war, the Biden administration, claiming the operation would be “limited” and “surgical” in a small city that’s home to more than 1.4 million people, already displaced several times from other parts in Gaza that Israel has occupied since it launched its revenge war for the 7 October attack by Hamas fighters.

Shortly before this latest, outrageous massacre burned people alive, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Washington was satisfied that the operation in Rafah was not as expansive as his administration had feared, and that the Israeli army was taking into account US advise on how to avoid killing civilians on a large scale.  

Yet, to confirm Israel’s challenge to the whole world, the massacre at the “Kuwait Peace Tent Camp”, designated a safe zone by the Israeli army after it forced more than 800,000 Palestinians to flee again following the launch of its invasion of Rafah on 7 May, took place only two days after the Hague-based International Court of Justice ruled that Israel must immediately stop its military operation in Rafah and refrain from any action that might further threaten Palestinian lives or the destruction of Palestinian communities.

This was the latest provisional order by the ICJ in response to a series of requests made by South Africa in the case it filed against Israel in January, accusing it of violating the UN Genocide Convention in the war it has been conducting in Gaza. Egypt announced it would join South Africa’s case after Israel launched its attack against Rafah in early May.

Only hours after the ICJ issued its ruling on Friday, Israel’s air force launched one of its fiercest strikes against Rafah in recent weeks. Israel’s military chiefs said they would continue fighting “deep into Rafah,” regardless of any rulings issued by world courts.

The tent camp massacre in Rafah on Sunday night also came a few days after the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor-general announced he would seek the court’s approval of arrest warrants for both Netanyahu and his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, for crimes against humanity and war crimes during the eight-month war.  

Videos coming out on world televisions and social media showed the camp in flames, with scores of men, women and children frantically seeking cover from the nighttime assault. Burned bodies and beheaded children, could be seen being pulled by rescuers from the wreckage.  

In one video, a man wept as he held up the headless body of a toddler for the camera. Women shrieked in grief as children peered into the fire. A man with a bloodied face stood in apparent shock, examining his wounds with one hand, as he held an infant with blood-stained clothes in the other arm. One of the bodies pulled out of the fire was charred-stiff.  

In another video, the lifeless body of a man was seen being dragged by the legs out of the flames. “He’s dead, he’s dead,” a rescuer says before moving on to find others.   

No hospitals in Rafah had the capacity to take the number of casualties, particularly as the Israeli Occupation Forces has made it systematic practice to destroy hospitals whether in the north, middle or southern Gaza.

However, the dire consequences of the Israeli invasion of Rafah, in particular, has not been limited to the heavy human toll of indiscriminate bombings. The closure of the Rafah border crossing after its occupation by Israeli soldiers practically led to a total halt in the flow of much needed aid into Gaza. Egypt recently agreed to send hundreds of trucks carrying much needed fuel and food through the nearby Karm Abu Salem Crossing controlled by Israel, but made clear that this was a “temporary” measure and that it would continue to press for the Israeli withdrawal from Rafah, which must be administered by Palestinians alone.

The presence of Israeli troops only a few hundred metres away from Egypt’s border is also a clear violation of security arrangements stated in the Camp David agreement signed between the two countries in 1979. With all the challenges Israel is currently facing on six or seven fronts, they certainly would not want to lose the key Arab country that has always been a supporter of a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian cause based on peace agreements and UN resolutions calling for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

This latest insane massacre must be a turning point, and condemnation statements issued by world leaders are not enough. The current US administration, which originally said it was opposed to an attack on Rafah, would have no excuse to block and veto a resolution at the UN Security Council demanding the implementation of the latest ICJ ruling.

To bring the current extremist cabinet in Israel to agree to a ceasefire deal, there are several measures Israel’s allies in the United States and Europe can take, foremost among them a halt in providing Israel with the weapons that mercilessly kill the Palestinian people.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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