Latest Israel, Gaza and Rafah News: 3 Countries to Formally Recognize Palestinian Statehood – The New York Times

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An Israeli airstrike on the southern Gaza city of Rafah that killed dozens of displaced Palestinians drew widespread international condemnation Monday, with world leaders calling for an investigation into the attack and intensifying the pressure for Israel to end its military campaign in the south.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said Monday he was “outraged” by the blast, and he called “for full respect for international law and an immediate cease-fire.”

“These operations must stop,” he said, referring to the strike on Sunday. “There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians.”

The strike came just two days after the International Court of Justice appeared to order Israel to immediately halt its offensive in the city. A legal official with the Israeli military said the strike was under review.

Volker Türk, the United Nations human rights chief, said, “What is shockingly clear is that by striking such an area, densely packed with civilians, this was an entirely predictable outcome.”

Spanish foreign minister José Manuel Albares said at a news conference Monday that he planned to ask other foreign ministers from the European Union’s member states to support the World Court’s rulings against Israel and to take measures if Israel continues with its Rafah operations.

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, condemned Israel’s actions in a post on X.

“There is no safe place in Gaza,” Mr. Guterres wrote. “This horror must stop.” Tor Wennesland, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, condemned the airstrikes and said he was “deeply troubled by the deaths of so many women and children in an area where people have sought shelter.”

Germany’s public broadcaster reported that the country’s vice chancellor, Robert Habeck, said on Saturday that Israel’s offensive in Rafah was “incompatible with international law.” Senior German officials had previously warned Israel against attacking Rafah, but Mr. Habeck’s comments appeared to represent a hardening of that tone in a country with a longstanding policy of support for Israel.

“Israel must not carry out this attack, at least not in the way it did in the Gaza Strip before, bombing refugee camps and so on,” Mr. Habeck said.

The Israeli military said the strike was targeting a Hamas compound and that it used “precise munitions” to kill two senior Hamas leaders. But at least 45 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded in the strike and ensuing fires, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

In a statement, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, acknowledged that the assault had killed two senior leaders responsible for the Oct. 7 attacks against Israel and said that Israel “has a right to go after Hamas.”

“But as we’ve been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians,” said Eduardo Maia Silva, the spokesman for the council, before referring to the Israel Defense Forces, adding, “We are actively engaging the I.D.F. and partners on the ground to assess what happened, and understand that the I.D.F. is conducting an investigation.”

The assault drew criticism from aid groups, like the International Rescue Committee, which issued a statement saying it was “horrified” and calling the area that was hit a “designated safe zone.” Israeli officials insist that the strike was outside the area they had designated as a safe zone for civilians. The I.R.C. also called for an end to Israel’s assault, a full cease-fire and for the release of all hostages.

Martin Griffiths, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, denounced the Israeli strike on social media, and, appearing to reference the Israeli military’s activity in southern Gaza, lamented how aid agencies have struggled to pick up goods at the scale needed.

“Such impunity cannot continue,” Mr. Griffiths said.

Philippe Lazzarini, chief of UNRWA, the main U.N. aid agency for Palestinians, described the images coming out of Rafah as a “testament to how Rafah has turned into hell on earth.”

The agency has had difficulty contacting its teams on the ground in Rafah, he said, and some of his staff are unaccounted for.

“UNRWA is doing everything possible not to interrupt the delivery of humanitarian assistance. But with every day passing, providing assistance & protection becomes nearly impossible,” Mr. Lazzarini wrote on X.

Catherine Russell, the executive director of UNICEF, said the continued assaults in Rafah pose “a catastrophic risk to the children sheltering there,” adding that many have already suffered extreme loss and hardship.

“They must be protected, along with the few remaining basic services and infrastructure they need to survive,” Ms. Russell wrote.

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