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Israel’s deadly attack on tent camp confirms ‘there is no safety’ in Gaza, survivors say

Families who survived a deadly Israeli airstrike on a tent camp in southern Gaza described a horrific scene of scorched tents and burning bodies on Sunday.

'No matter where we go, we will die here,' Palestinian woman says

International outcry after Israeli airstrike kills dozens in Rafah

5 hours ago

Duration 2:50

An Israeli airstrike and its aftermath have killed dozens of innocent Palestinians sheltering in tents in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a mistake, while international leaders condemned it.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details.

Families who survived a deadly Israeli airstrike on a tent camp in Rafah described a horrific scene of scorched tents and burning bodies on Sunday, as the attack brought further scrutiny to Israel's continued offensive in the city.

Witnesses said people were preparing for evening prayer when the strike hit the Tel al-Sultan neighbourhood, where thousands had tried to find shelter after Israeli forces launched a ground offensive in the east of Rafah more than two weeks ago.

"We were sitting safely and suddenly we find bodies thrown on the ground, blood splattered on the ground — heads cut off, hands cut off…. We were screaming at each other," said Malak Filfel, 23, who said children were among those killed.

"This is not a life," Filfel said added. "There is no safety. We're not getting out. No matter where we go, we will die here."

Israeli leaflets instructed Gazans to head for camp

The airstrike started a massive fire that quickly tore through thin tents and makeshift shelters. The health ministry in Gaza said 45 people were killed in the attack. By daylight Monday, the camp was filled with smoking tents, twisted metal and charred belongings. Women cried as men prayed over the bodies.

Some survivors said they had come to the camp because they followed a warning on Israeli leaflets, telling them to leave Rafah for the "humanitarian area."

A red and white leaflet with Arabic writing is pictured.

"For your safety, the Israeli Defence Force is asking you to leave these areas immediately and to go to known shelters in Deir el Balah or the humanitarian area in Tel al-Sultan through Beach Road," read one leaflet translated from Arabic.

"Don't blame us after we warned you."

Defeated, Filfel described reading the white and red papers.

"They threw on us leaflets saying, 'Go to the south.' … So when we came here to the south, they also massacred us," she said.

WATCH | Survivors question where else to go after Israeli airstrike hits camp:

Families fled to Rafah for safety — now they fear for their lives

15 hours ago

Duration 1:03

Families from across Gaza fled to Rafah after being told by Israeli forces to move south. After a deadly strike over the weekend, some are asking if they’ll ever find safety again.

Abu Mohamed Abu Al-Sabaa, 67, said he choseTel al-Sultan as his next refuge because it was supposed to be a humanitarian area. He said he looked out of his tent after hearing a loud noise Sunday to find flames "two metres high" before his neighbour's shelter collapsed, leaving him momentarily trapped.

"I hit the plastic [tent] with the power of God to open the way and the kids and everyone got out," he said.

"I got out and found bodies."

More than half of the dead were women, children and elderly people, Palestinian health officials said, adding that the death toll was likely to rise as more people caught in the blaze were in critical condition with severe burns.

"There is nowhere safe in the Gaza strip. We strongly contest any idea that there is somewhere you are able to go and find safety. It's been proven time and time again that no matter where people are, no matter where families and children are sheltering, they are not safe," said Louise Wateridge, a spokesperson for UNRWA, the main United Nations agency in Gaza.

The charred interior of a burned car is visible.

UNRWA said 800,000 people have been forced to flee Rafah since Israel launched its military operation in the area earlier this month.

"I swear to god we're exhausted," said Umm Mohamed Taha, 37. "We're displaced from here to there and there to here."

"Tell me where can I find a safe place to go with our kids."

International condemnation rises

The international community was quick to condemn the attack, as were some of Israel's closest allies. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said the strike was "a "tragic accident," but reinforced the nation's commitment to a complete defeat of Hamas.

"In Rafah, we already evacuated about one million non-combatant residents and despite our utmost effort not to harm non-combatants, something unfortunately went tragically wrong," he said in a speech in parliament.

Israel has continued its attack on Rafah despite a ruling from the UN's top court on Friday ordering the nation to stop. The court also reiterated calls for Hamas to immediately release hostages held in Gaza without condition.

A burned car and scorched belongings are seen in what was once a camp for displaced Palestinians. A group of survivors is standing in the background.

Canadian politicians had harsh words for the attack.

"Women and children were burned alive in tents. They were told they were in a safe zone, in a refugee encampment, yet they were burned alive," NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Monday.

"Our position has been clear on Rafah, and we've been saying it now for weeks: Palestinian civilians do not have any safe space to go. the killing of innocent civilians is completely unacceptable and the decisions of the International Court of Justice are binding," said Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly.

WATCH | Joly calls for a ceasefire:

Joly says situation in Rafah is horrific, calls for an immediate ceasefire

11 hours ago

Duration 1:14

In an exchange during question period, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asked Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly about the deadly airstrike in Rafah. Joly called the situation ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘horrific’ and called for an immediate ceasefire.

The Israeli military said "precise intelligence" indicated the attack had killed two Hamas leaders, including its chief of staff for the occupied West Bank. An independent body "responsible for examining unusual incidents in combat" would investigate the incident, the Israeli Defence Force added.

UNRWA said the images from the "horrifying" attack on Sunday were "yet another testament" that Gaza has become "hell on earth."

Wateridge said the civilian casualties should have been avoided.

"What is shockingly clear is that striking such an area densely packed with civilians, the outcome that has been last night and today was entirely predictable," she said in an interview with CBC's As It Happens.

LISTEN | Wateridge speaks about the attack:

As It Happens6:57Civilian deaths in Rafah airstrike 'entirely predictable,' says UNRWA

"There has to be a different way for any military offensive to go forward and the safety of civilians has to be put first."

Israel's assault on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the local health ministry. Israel attacked the enclave after Hamas-led militants killed around 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story misattributed a quote from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly.
    May 27, 2024 5:34 PM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhianna Schmunk

Senior Writer

Rhianna Schmunk is a senior writer for CBC News based in Vancouver. Over a decade in journalism, she has reported on subjects including criminal justice, civil litigation and climate change. You can send story tips to rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.

With files from CBC's Yasmine Hassan and Reuters

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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