Rafah attack means there are no more lines left to cross in Gaza

People in the ruined Palestinian enclave have already paid too high a price in this war; all parties have a duty to find an end to it

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a camp for displaced people in Rafah that officials say killed at least 45 people. Footage of the injuries has reached smartphones around the world. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Fadi Dukhan is one of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the overcrowded city of Rafah. Shortly after Israeli air strikes on Sunday that Palestinian officials say killed at least 45 people, he gave a harrowing account of the carnage wrought by the attack: “We looked over the wall and found a girl and a young man cut into pieces.”

In a war characterised by a string of atrocities – the killing and kidnapping of civilians, the deaths of aid workers, mass graves outside hospitals as well as the wholesale destruction of homes, schools and businesses – this devastating Israeli strike on Tal Al Sultan, an area designated as a so-called “safe zone” by the Israelis for displaced Palestinians, shows there are no more lines left to cross.

In addition to the many civilian deaths, fires started by Israeli munitions have also inflicted horrific burns, footage of which has reached smartphones around the world. This comes after recent warnings by the International Court of Justice and others that any military operation on Rafah was certain to end in the death and injury of many non-combatants.

For its part, Israel’s military on Sunday said it was investigating the incident but insisted that it hit a Hamas compound “using precise munitions and on the basis of precise intelligence”. Given the litany of ignominious incidents carried out at the hands of Israeli forces since the beginning of this war, few will be convinced by such claims.

Neither will those who value Palestinian lives be reassured by Hamas’ continuing attacks on Israel, such as the rocket barrage aimed at Tel Aviv on Saturday. Far from deterring Israeli forces or raising Palestinian morale, such tactics endanger Israeli civilians and give internal political and military cover to the country’s leadership to continue its devastating collective punishment of Gaza’s people.

How can a way out of this morass be found? Gaza ceasefire talks are set to continue this week, with CIA director William Burns expected to travel to Israel, Egypt and Qatar before mediators meet for a new round of negotiations. It goes without saying that any kind of contact that could halt the carnage is welcome but, sadly, we have been here before. Thus far, progress in the negotiations has only been undermined by atrocities such as Sunday’s incineration of civilians in Tal Al Sultan. It should be clear by now that an immediate truce must come first before more substantive talks about hostages or prisoner releases.

A cessation must come first because this war has by now become the epitome of doing the same things over again and expecting different, or better results. There is no way for Israel to achieve unilaterally its stated goals of freeing its remaining hostages, destroying Hamas or re-establishing its national security. On the contrary, actions like carrying out air strikes on a Palestinian tent city in the aim of killing Hamas operatives will lead only to further, damaging international isolation. Israel is obliged to abide by the International Court of Justice, as demanded by the UN. Similarly, Hamas is caught in a cul-de-sac of militarism and its leaders in Gaza have nowhere to go; it must identify a path to end the fighting. Gaza’s people have already paid too high a price in this war; all parties have a duty to find an end to it.

Published: May 28, 2024, 3:00 AM
Updated: May 29, 2024, 2:44 PM