UN Security Council to meet for emergency session after Rafah strike

Spain, Norway, Ireland to formally recognize Palestinian state, saying it is ‘justice for Palestinian people’ and only way for peace in the region

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 18, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The UN Security Council was set to convene an emergency meeting Tuesday over an Israeli strike targeting Hamas operatives that also reportedly killed dozens in a displaced persons camp in Rafah, with three European countries slated to formally recognize a Palestinian state.

AFP journalists on the ground early Tuesday reported fresh Israeli strikes overnight in the southern Gaza border city, where an Israeli attack targeting two senior Hamas members on Sunday night sparked a fire that ripped through a nearby displacement center, killing 45 people, according to Hamas-run Gaza health officials.

The attack prompted a wave of international condemnation, with Palestinians and many Arab countries calling it a “massacre.” Israel said it was looking into the “tragic mishap.”

“There is no safe place in Gaza. This horror must stop,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres posted on social media.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths pointed to the widespread warnings of civilian deaths that circulated ahead of Israel’s incursion into Rafah, saying in a statement: “We’ve seen the consequences in last night’s utterly unacceptable attack.”

“To call it ‘a mistake’ is a message that means nothing for those killed, those grieving, and those trying to save lives,” he added.

Palestinians look at the destruction after Israeli strike on what the IDF said was a Hamas compound, adjacent to a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP/Jehad Alshrafi)

Diplomats said the UN Security Council would convene Tuesday for an emergency session called by Algeria to discuss the attack.

The EU’s foreign policy chief said he was “horrified by news” of the strike, while French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “outraged” and a US National Security Council spokesperson said Israel “must take every precaution possible to protect civilians.”

The Israeli military said it was launching a probe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset the deaths occurred “despite our best efforts” to protect civilians.

From right, Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares Bueno and Ireland’s Foreign Minister Micheal Martin pose for a photo, at the end of a media conference, during talks on the Middle East, in Brussels, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The outcry over the strike came as Spain, Ireland and Norway were set to formally recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a decision slammed by Israel as a “reward” for Hamas after its brutal attack on October 7, which sparked the war.

“Recognizing the state of Palestine is about justice for the Palestinian people,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Monday in Brussels.

It was also “the best guarantee of security for Israel and absolutely essential for reaching peace in the region,” he said alongside his Irish and Norwegian counterparts.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he had told Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem to stop offering consular services to West Bank Palestinians from June 1 as a “preliminary punitive” measure.

Israel launched the deadly strike on Rafah late Sunday, hours after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from there at the Tel Aviv area, most of which were intercepted.

The Israel Defense Forces said its aircraft “struck a Hamas compound” in the city and killed Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar, senior operative who ran terror activities for the group in the West Bank.

According to the IDF, Rafah contains four of the six remaining Hamas battalions and is the terror group’s last remaining stronghold.

Palestinians sit by the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in an Israeli airstrike in the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 20, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Gaza’s civil defense agency said the strike ignited a fire that tore through a displacement center in northwestern Rafah near a facility of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

The war in Gaza started after Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were murdered and 252 were taken hostage. Israel vowed to topple the terror group’s regime in Gaza and secure the release of the hostages.

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