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Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, during their funeral in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 27, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

Gaza:  At least 45 Palestinians, including at least 23 women, children and elderly people, were killed in an Israeli attack on a camp for those displaced from the southern city of Rafah, the Gaza health ministry said on Monday.

The ministry raised its overall toll of confirmed dead from Israel's military offensive to at least 36,050, with 81,026 wounded. It says thousands of other dead have not been recovered from the rubble during the campaign since Oct. 7.

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The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on Israel to “implement the measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning an immediate cessation of military operations” in Rafah.

Israel’s latest strikes could hinder talks towards a truce and hostage release deal, mediator nation Qatar said on Monday.

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The foreign ministry voiced “concern that the bombing will complicate ongoing mediation efforts and hinder reaching an agreement for an immediate and permanent ceasefire”.

“In light of the horrific Zionist massacre this evening committed by the criminal occupation army against the tents of the displaced... we call on the masses of our people in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the occupied territories, and abroad to rise up and march angrily against the ongoing Zionist massacre against our people in the sector,” the Palestinian militant group Hamas said in a statement.

Palestinians mourn by the bodies in Rafah. Image Credit: AFP

The Israeli military said in a statement that it carried out the strike based on “precise intelligence” against “legitimate targets under international law” and that it killed two “senior” Hamas officials responsible for operations in the West Bank.

Overcrowded with tents

The area, in Rafah’s northwest, was overcrowded with tents from people fleeing the assault on the city, which the Biden administration has warned against because of the risk to civilians lives. Footage on social media showed fire spreading across tents as people pulled out the dead and injured.

“Our teams are doing their best to save lives,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement, adding that it was treating people from the strike at a field hospital. “It’s imperative to protect civilians.”

The area wasn’t among those ordered to be evacuated by the Israeli military as it prepared for the assault on Rafah, and it attracted many people fleeing areas deemed more dangerous.

The Israeli military said it was “aware” of reports that civilians were harmed due to the strike and the fire it ignited, and that the “incident is under review.”

Israel’s military is pressing ahead with its operations against Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah despite the International Court ruling. Officials say they interpret Friday’s ruling in The Hague as permitting the incursion to continue as long as it’s done with care, adding that the military is carrying out targeted strikes in Rafah, far short of a full invasion.

Palestinians search for food among the burning debris in Rafah. Image Credit: Reuters

Negotiations over a Gaza ceasefire had been set to resume this week following a meeting in Paris among Israel’s intelligence chief, the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency and the Qatari foreign minister.

The talks, aimed at exchanging Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners and reaching an extended pause in combat, have fallen apart over Hamas’ insistence that they lead to an end to the war. Israel says the war can only end with the defeat of Hamas. The mediators are seeking language that both sides can accept.

Gaza’s civil defence agency said Israeli strikes wounded at least 50 people in the area, where it said 100,000 displaced people live.

The ICRC said one of its field hospitals was receiving an “influx of casualties seeking care for injuries and burns” and reported that other hospitals were also receiving a large number of patients.

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah. Image Credit: AFP

Strikes in other areas of Rafah were also reported late Sunday, with the Kuwait Specialized Hospital saying it had received the bodies of three people, including a pregnant woman.

Israel launched a ground operation on Rafah in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.

Earlier on Sunday, Israel’s army said at least eight rockets were fired towards central areas of the country from Rafah.

Hamas’s armed wing said in a post on Telegram it had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians”.

Later Sunday, the Israeli military said in a statement its air force had carried out strikes on Rafah in response.

“The rocket launcher, which was situated near two mosques in the area of Rafah, was struck by the (Israeli Air Force) shortly after,” it said.