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Kamala Harris decries Israel's attack on Rafah, says word 'tragic' not enough to describe tent camp killings

The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that munitions stored near a compound targeted by Sunday's airstrike may have ignited and touched off the blaze.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Washington Updated on: May 28, 2024 23:48 IST
US Vice-President Kamala Harris ON iSRAEL ATTACK ON RAFAH
Image Source : AP US Vice-President Kamala Harris

US Vice President Kamala Harris said on Tuesday that "the word tragic doesn't even begin to describe" an Israeli airstrike that triggered a fire in a tent camp in the Gazan city of Rafah, killing 45 Palestinians. Harris, speaking outside an event in Washington, was responding to a reporter's question about the weekend airstrike. Harris, speaking at a ceremonial event in Washington, did not respond to a follow-up question about whether attacks in Rafah crossed a "red line."

The statement came nearly two days after the Israeli military set off a blaze in a tent camp in a western district of Gaza, killing at least 45 people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an Israeli strike was a "tragic mistake" and added it was not intended to cause civilian casualties. He said that the incident will be investigated. 

VIDEO: Black smoke rises over Rafah

US reached out to Israel to express deep concern 

In a separate event, the State Department said the United States reached out to the government of Israel to express deep concern over a strike in Rafah as soon as it saw reports of the incident. The Department said that Washington will be closely watching the results of Israel's investigation. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the US will continue to emphasise to Israel its obligation to comply fully with international humanitarian law, minimize the impact of its operations on civilians and maximize the flow of humanitarian assistance.

Earlier today, Gaza health authorities said Israeli tank shelling had killed at least 21 people in Rafah, in what Israel has designated a civilian evacuation zone. At least 12 of the dead were women, according to medical officials in the Hamas militant-run Palestinian enclave.

However, Israel's military denied striking a tent camp west of the city of Rafah on Tuesday. Earlier, defying an appeal from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israeli tanks advanced to the heart of Rafah for the first time after a night of heavy bombardment, while Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognised a Palestinian state, a move that further deepened Israel's international isolation.

Israel's action prompts global uproar

Global leaders voiced horror at the fire in a designated "humanitarian zone" of Rafah where families uprooted by fighting elsewhere had sought shelter, and urged the implementation of a World Court order last week for a halt to Israel's assault.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that munitions stored near a compound targeted by Sunday's airstrike may have ignited and touched off the blaze. Residents said Rafah's Tel Al-Sultan neighbourhood, the scene of Sunday's night-time strike in which tents and shelters were set ablaze as families settled down to sleep, was still being bombarded.

"Tank shells are falling everywhere in Tel Al-Sultan. Many families have fled their houses in western Rafah under fire throughout the night," one resident told Reuters via a chat app.

UN chief condemns Israel's action on Rafah

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday added his voice to the chorus of condemnation of Sunday's strike and again urged Israel to allow "the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need".

In a further blow to aid efforts, a part of the U.S. military's pier off Gaza's coast has broken off, probably due to bad weather, rendering it temporarily inoperable, two U.S. officials said. The United Nations has transported 137 trucks of aid from the pier since it began operations two weeks ago.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Netanyahu acknowledges 'tragic mistake' after Israeli strike kills 45 in Gaza's Rafah amid global outcry


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