World outraged by Rafah massacre with calls for ceasefire and sanctions on Israel

World outraged by Rafah massacre with calls for ceasefire and sanctions on Israel
World leaders and officials have slammed Israel's continued defiance of international law after its gruesome attack on a displacement camp in Rafah on Sunday.
8 min read
27 May, 2024
Gut-wrenching images coming out of Rafah Sunday evening stunned the world [Getty]

Palestinian, Arab and world officials have condemned the horrifying Israeli attack on Rafah on Sunday which killed dozens of civilians in what was supposedly a "safe zone" for those displaced by the war.

Disturbing images of charred bodies and beheaded babies shocked the world and caused further outrage against Israel for its nearly eight-month offensive on the Gaza Strip which has killed over 36,000 people.

Late on Sunday, multiple missiles smashed into a displacement camp northwest of Rafah which killed at least 45 people and wounded others who were sheltering in tents near a warehouse belonging to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Israel claims the attack killed two Hamas officials and said the "incident was under review" after admitting it was "aware of reports" of civilian harm.

Gaza’s hospitals, most of which have already been battered by the offensive, are struggling to treat casualties.

'Gaza is hell on earth': UNRWA

The UN's refugee agency said the latest attack on Rafah was further evidence that the Gaza Strip is "hell on earth".

It said it had no line of communication with its employees in the Rafah area, adding: "We are unable to locate them, and we are very concerned for their safety and all the displaced people who are taking shelter in this area."

"No one is safe: not civilians, not aid workers, no one has been spared. We need a ceasefire now," UNRWA said.

UN rapporteur wants sanctions on Israel

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, said Israel’s bombing of the displacement camp in Rafah represents a "blatant challenge to international law and order," calling for sanctions to be imposed on Tel Aviv to end the "genocide" in Gaza.

"More horror in the Gaza ghetto. The Israeli occupation forces have bombed a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, causing plastic tents to catch fire and tragically burning people alive. This cruelty, along with blatant defiance of the international law and system, is unacceptable," she wrote on X, over a video showing tents going up in flames.

"The Gaza genocide‌ will not easily end without external pressure: Israel must face sanctions, justice, suspension of agreements, trade, partnership and investments, as well as participation in international forums."

Hamas calls for protests

Hamas, which has been battling Israeli forces in Gaza since October 7, called on Palestinians to go out in protest.

It said the attack was a clear challenge by Israel against an International Court of Justice (ICJ) order to halt the assault on Rafah.

"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 in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the occupied interior (Israel) and abroad to rise up and go out with angry marches against the massacre," Hamas said.

Palestinian Authority

The Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, which has only some governance in the occupied West Bank, echoed Hamas's statement.

"This heinous massacre carried out by Israeli occupation forces is a challenge to all resolutions of international legitimacy," the PA said in a statement, accusing the Israeli military of "deliberately targeting the tents of the displaced in Rafah."

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia denounced "the continued massacres of the Israeli occupation forces and their continued targeting of defenceless civilians in the Gaza Strip."

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia affirmed its "outright rejection of the continued, blatant violations by Israeli occupation forces of all international and humanitarian resolutions, laws, and norms."

Riyadh has been in talks with Washington to normalise ties with Israel in return for a US-supported defence pact. But the Gulf kingdom has repeatedly said any agreement with Tel Aviv would require an independent Palestinian state, something Israel’s far-right government has refused.

Egypt

Egypt condemned the "deliberate" bombing by Israeli forces of the displacement camp, saying it was a "tragic event".

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Israel "to comply with its legal obligations as an occupying power, and to implement the measures issued by the ICJ regarding the immediate cessation of military operations and any other measures in the Palestinian city of Rafah".

Egypt is one of three mediating countries - alongside the US and Qatar - trying to negotiate a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel. Ties between Egypt and Israel, which have shared relations since 1979, have worsened since the start of the Gaza war, but even more so since Israel seized the Rafah border crossing earlier this month.

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Jordan

Jordan also condemned "the continuation of the heinous war crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip," saying Israel’s actions were in "blatant defiance of the decisions of the International Court of Justice, and a grave violation of international law and international humanitarian law."

Jordan too has shared ties with Israel since 1994, but ties between the two countries have also rapidly deteriorated since the start of the war.

The Jordanian crown prince said his country was in a "diplomatic battle" with Israel.

Jordan is worried that Israel will try to expel Palestinians from their territories towards the kingdom, similar to Egypt's concerns that Israel wants to push Gazans into the Sinai Peninsula.

Qatar

Qatar has also condemned the attack and what it said was "a serious violation of international laws that would double the worsening humanitarian crisis in the besieged [Gaza] Strip."

"The bombing will complicate ongoing mediation efforts and impede reaching an agreement for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the exchange of hostages and detainees," the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Hamas took over 250 hostages in its attack in southern Israel on October 7, which also left around 1,170 people dead. Some of those hostages have already been released, and the Palestinian group wants to swap the remaining captives for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Yemen’s Houthis

Yemen’s Houthi rebels called on the international community to "pressure the Zionist enemy to withdraw its forces from the Rafah crossing, open the crossing and bring in aid".

It held "the United States fully responsible for the Rafah massacre and other massacres, as it is the main supporter of Israel".

The Iran-backed Houthis have been attacking Israeli-linked or Israel-bound ships in and around the Red Sea since November in support of the Palestinians and Gaza.

Arab League

The Arab Parliament, the legislative body of the 22-member Arab League, affirmed in a statement published on its Facebook page that Israel continues to kill and destroy in Gaza due to global failure to hold it accountable for its war crimes, and the failure to take any deterrent measures against it.

The Arab League’s Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said the regional organisation was presenting the Rafah attack to international courts as additional criminal evidence against Israel.

Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that his country would do "everything possible" to hold "barbaric" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to account over the deadly strikes in Rafah.

"We will do everything possible to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable who have nothing to do with humanity," Erdogan said.

Ankara this month cut off all trade ties with Israel.

Condemnations have also been issued by European countries, some of which are preparing to recognise an independent Palestinian state.

France

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "outraged" over Israel's latest strikes on Rafah.

"These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians," Macron said on social network X.

Macron has criticised Israel previously over its conduct in Gaza, saying it needs to do more to avoid civilian casualties. He said he supported an International Criminal Court decision to seek arrest warrants for Netanyahu and other Israeli officials over war crimes.

Spain

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares called on his European counterparts to raise their voice in support of international law after Israel’s massacre in Rafah, which he said happened despite the ICJ’s to stop targeting the city.

"All decisions of the International Court of Justice are binding on all parties, and Israel must stop its operation in Rafah," stressed Albares, who is in Brussels with his Norwegian and Irish counterparts where they are seeking wider support for a Gaza ceasefire and a two-state solution.

Spain, Norway, and Ireland are expected to officially announce their recognition of a Palestinian state on Tuesday, 28 May, a move which Israel claims "rewards Hamas."

Norway

"We recognise the Palestinian state because this is the right time for that," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.

"We see a continuing cycle of violence in Gaza and the West Bank, and its end will be achieved by establishing a Palestinian state and implementing the two-state solution," he added.

Eide stressed that "recognition of the Palestinian state is part of a path aimed at reaching sustainable peace in the Middle East".

He indicated that they – his country along with Spain and Ireland – are working to "develop a peace plan that meets the demands of the Palestinians," stressing the necessity of "an immediate ceasefire in Gaza."

"There are other European countries considering recognising the Palestinian state, and I hope they will follow our example," revealed Eide.

He stressed that "Israel's continuation of the war in Gaza violates the decision of the International Justice [Court], the highest court in the world."

Italy

Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said his government was monitoring the situation "with despair."

"There is an increasingly difficult situation, in which the Palestinian people are being squeezed without regard for the rights of innocent men, women and children who have nothing to do with Hamas and this can no longer be justified," he told Sky TV 24.

Italy is one of Israel’s largest arms suppliers, striking a number of deals with Tel Aviv during the war on Gaza.

Several other countries and organisations have denounced the attack.