Qatar warns Rafah attack could hinder ceasefire talks amid global fury over deadly strike

Arab states call on international community to intervene and stop Israel from killing civilians

Palestinians inspect the destruction after an Israeli strike on a site where displaced people were living in Rafah on Monday. AP
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Qatar on Monday warned that Israel's deadly strikes on a camp for displaced civilians could hinder talks towards a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

The Gulf nation said it was concerned the bombing, which killed at least 45 people, would "complicate ongoing mediation efforts and hinder reaching an agreement for an immediate and permanent ceasefire”.

Qatar, alongside the US and Egypt, has been engaged in months of talks aimed at securing a truce between Israel and Hamas in the devastated Gaza Strip.

The Israeli strikes represent a “dangerous violation of international law”, Qatar's Foreign Ministry warned.

It called on the international community to take immediate action to prevent Israel from “implementing its plans to forcibly displace [Palestinians] from the city, which has become a final refuge for hundreds of thousands”.

Discussions are set to resume on a 12-month ceasefire after an initial six-week truce in which Hamas will release about 20 of the estimated 130 hostages it still holds, along with an unspecified number of bodies of Israelis who died in captivity.

But talks have reached a stalemate after Israel sent troops to the southern Gaza city of Rafah on the border with Egypt.

Other Gulf nations strongly criticised the strike, reaffirming international warnings to Israel to refrain from the Rafah operation.

The UAE condemned Israel's attack on "displaced persons in Rafah", state news agency Wam reported on Monday.

The UAE "stressed the importance of committing to implement the measures ordered by the International Court of Justice demanding Israel's immediate halt to the operations in Rafah".

Saudi Arabia said it condemned “in the strongest terms the continued massacres committed by Israeli occupation forces”.

The kingdom's Foreign Ministry called on the international community “to intervene immediately to halt the massacres” committed by the Israeli military in Gaza.

Kuwait's Foreign Ministry also decried the Israeli attack on the camp, saying it exposed Israel's “blatant war crimes and unprecedented genocide to the whole world”.

It also called for an “immediate and firm intervention by the international community”.

Egypt said the attack was a “deliberate bombardment by Israeli forces of displaced peoples' tents” in Rafah. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry called on Israel to “implement the measures ordered by the International Court of Justice concerning an immediate cessation of military operations” in Rafah.

Cairo condemned the strike as “a new flagrant violation of the provisions of international humanitarian law”.

It deplored the “tragic event” and denounced the “targeting of defenceless civilians” and “a systematic policy aimed at widening the scope of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip to make it uninhabitable”.

Jordan also expressed its condemnation, accusing Israel of committing “ongoing war crimes”.

Amman said the bombardment in Rafah “defies the rulings of the International Court of Justice and constitutes a severe violation of international law and international humanitarian law”.

Other countries reacted with stronger statements, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying his country would “do everything possible to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable, who have nothing to do with humanity.”

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian Authority presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh called the attack a “heinous massacre” and a “challenge to all the resolutions of international legitimacy, particularly the lucid and candid ruling of the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to cease its military offensive against the city of Rafah”.

Anger in Europe

In Europe, countries that stood behind Israel in its initial response to the October 7 attack were quick to chastise it and demand an end to the Rafah operation.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged” by Israel's latest attacks.

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” he said on X.

In Germany, Israel's largest supplier of arms outside the US, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the ICJ ruling must be respected.

“International humanitarian law applies for all, also for Israel's conduct of the war,” Ms Baerbock said. “We do not support a major military operation in Rafah without a plan to protect the hundreds of thousands of civilians who remain there.”

Seeking to limit further damage to its international standing, Israel’s chief military prosecutor said her country’s overnight strike on Rafah was “very grave” and was being investigated.

“The details of the incident are still under an investigation, which we are committed to conducting to the fullest extent,” said Maj Gen Yifat Tomer on Monday.

The military “regrets any harm to non-combatants during the war”, she added.

Updated: May 27, 2024, 2:35 PM