’All eyes on Rafah’: Israel pounds southern Gaza city amid global outrage and ICJ ruling — All you need to know

‘All eyes on Rafah’: Rafah is a city in Gaza. Israel vowed to press on with its Rafah offensive despite the global condemnation. Israel's military has been carrying out what it calls a ‘limited operation’ in Rafah since early May.

Written By Akriti Anand
Updated28 May 2024
Palestinians at the site of an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Monday, May 27, 2024.
Palestinians at the site of an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Monday, May 27, 2024.(Bloomberg)

“All eyes on Rafah” – the phrase flooded social media on Tuesday as several people from across the world came out in support of Palestinians residing in the Rafah city located in war-torn Gaza. “'All eyes on Rafah' is a phrase that refers to the ongoing genocide in Rafah, Gaza, with over 1.4 million Palestinians seeking shelter,” Iran's Embassy in India posted on X.

Israel continues to launch airstrikes in the region despite facing global outrage and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order demanding Israel put an end to the military operation in the region. Meanwhile, in a historic yet “symbolic” move, two European countries – Spain and Norway – officially recognised a Palestinian state on Tuesday, May 28. Ireland is yet to follow suit.

About half of Gaza's population, or over a million people, have been living in Rafah, the southernmost post of exit from Gaza city bordering Egypt's Sinai peninsula. Most have fled once again since Israel launched what it called a limited incursion there earlier this month. Feld to a safe place? The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said there is no such thing as a safe place in Gaza.

All eyes on Rafah: Here's what's happening — 10 points

1. Israel launched the attack on Rafah late Sunday, hours after Hamas unleashed a barrage of rockets at the Tel Aviv area, most of which were intercepted. At least 45 people were killed and 200 others were injured after the Israeli airstrike hit a tent camp housing in Rafah for displaced people, CNN reported, according to the government media office in Gaza.

UNRWA on Tuesday in a post on X on Tuesday, said they were unable to establish full communication with their team in Gaza and said, "Gaza has become hell on earth. Families continue to seek refuge, trying to escape war, but there is no such thing as a safe place in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Israel's military had said that the Sunday attack in the southern Rafah area had targeted and killed two senior Hamas operatives – but it also sparked a fire that Palestinians and many Arab countries condemned as a “massacre”.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called the country's strike at the camp a “tragic mistake.

2. The attack triggered global outrage against Israel. A US National Security Council spokesperson said Israel “must take every precaution possible to protect civilians”.

Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron posted on X, "Deeply distressing scenes following the airstrikes in Rafah this weekend...We urgently need a deal to get hostages out & aid in, with a pause in fighting to allow work towards a long-term sustainable ceasefire."

Egypt condemned the “targeting of defenceless civilians”, calling it part of “a systematic policy aimed at widening the scope of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip to make it uninhabitable”.

Jordan accused Israel of “ongoing war crimes”, Saudi Arabia condemned “the continued massacres”, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed “to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable”.

Qatar condemned a “dangerous violation of international law” and voiced “concern that the bombing will complicate ongoing mediation efforts” towards a truce.

3. Around one million people have fled the Israeli offensive in Rafah since early May, the UNRWA reported on Tuesday. Many Palestinians, however, complained they are vulnerable to Israeli attacks wherever they go and have been moving up and down the Gaza Strip for the past few months.

The UNRWA said the flight from Rafah “happened with nowhere safe to go and amidst bombardments, lack of food and water, piles of waste and unsuitable living conditions.”

4. Israel vowed to press on with its Rafah offensive despite the global condemnation and a US warning not to proceed. Israel's military has been carrying out what it says is a limited operation in Rafah since early May.

The operation focuses on killing fighters and dismantling infrastructure used by Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip. Israel told civilians to go to an “expanded humanitarian zone” some 20 km (12 miles) away, Reuters reported.

5. Israel has kept up attacks despite a ruling by the top UN court – International Court of Justice (ICJ) – on Friday ordering it to halt its operations in the southern Gazan city of Rafah and withdraw from the enclave. The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its offensive in the city, adding to the unprecedented level of diplomatic pressure that Netanyahu is facing over the war in Gaza.

“Israel must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah Governorate which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” ICJ President Judge Nawaf Salam said in its order which was supported by 13 of 15 judges.

6. 'All eyes on Rafah' massively trended on social media, with many comming out in support of Palestinians in the Gazan city. Actor Samantha Ruth Prabhu took to Instagram stories to share a post on Israel-Palestine conflict. She reshared posts that called out Israel's attack on Rafah. Actor Dia Mirza, Swara Bhaskar, Gauahar Khan were among others who reshared series of posts about the Rafah attack.

7. Spain and Norway have officially recognised a Palestinian state on Tuesday, May 28, with an aim to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis and find a resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Gaza. Ireland has also said it will officially recognise a Palestinian state on May 28.

The Guardian quoted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez as saying, “The state of Palestine must be viable with the West Bank and Gaza connected by a corridor and with East Jerusalem as its capital, and it must be unified under the legitimate government of the Palestinian national authority.”

8. Israel repeatedly condemned the move by the three European countries, saying that it bolsters the Palestinian militant group Hamas. In a series of tweets, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, accused Spain of giving in to Hamas.

9. The war started after the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures. Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of who remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,050 people and injured 81,136 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

10. The Israel-Hamas conflict that broke out in Gaza in October last year resurrected the debate over Palestinian statehood in international politics. Israel claims that the attack by Hamas demonstrated how its security would be compromised by the existence of an independent state on its border. However, many countries contend that the long-discussed two-state solution is what will finally bring about peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

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