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Israeli Strike Hits Rafah Refugee Camp Following Hamas Rocket Barrage

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Israeli Strike Hits Rafah Refugee Camp Following Hamas Rocket Barrage

Israel confirmed targeting two senior Hamas leaders and will investigate reports that the fire spread to nearby civilian shelters.

A devastating explosion at a refugee camp in Rafah has left dozens dead or injured, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. The blast in the southern Gaza Strip resulted in intense fires, as shown in videos from the scene.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed targeting two senior Hamas leaders at one of the group’s compounds and indicated they would investigate reports that the fire had spread to nearby shelters, causing civilian casualties. This strike came shortly after Hamas launched eight rockets from Rafah towards Tel Aviv, marking the first long-range attacks on the city since January.

In a statement following the explosion on Sunday night, the IDF announced it had “eliminated” two senior Hamas figures, Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar, in a “precise” air strike in north-west Rafah. The IDF emphasised the use of precision weapons aimed at Hamas militants.

Hamas authorities reported that 35 people were killed and dozens injured at a camp for displaced Palestinians north-west of Rafah, a designated humanitarian safe zone away from recent military operations. The casualties included women and children, and the death toll is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue in Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, located about 2 km (1.2 miles) north-west of the city center, according to a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Eyewitnesses described scenes of devastation. One told Reuters that the entire neighborhood in Tal al-Sultan had been “burnt.” Another witness, Fadi Dukhan, recounted sitting at the door of a house when he heard the explosion. “Suddenly we heard the sound of a missile,” he said. “We ran and found the street covered in smoke. We did not see anything.” He later discovered the bodies of a girl and a young man who had been “cut into pieces.”

Earlier on Sunday, air raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv as central Israel came under attack by Hamas rockets fired from Rafah. The IDF reported that the eight rockets were either intercepted by air defense systems or fell in fields, with no injuries reported.

Despite the International Court of Justice ruling on Friday that Israel must halt its military offensive, the IDF has continued operations in Rafah. The ongoing conflict has prompted more than 800,000 Palestinians to flee from Rafah, according to the UN. Approximately 1.5 million people have sought shelter there from fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

The military campaign in Gaza began after Hamas-led gunmen attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of about 1,200 people and the taking of 252 others as hostages. Since then, nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The conflict underscores the continuing threat Hamas poses to Israel and highlights the challenges the Israeli army faces as it seeks to eliminate Hamas strongholds in southern Gaza. Further ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas are expected to resume next week.

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