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Deadly blast hits refugee camp in Rafah amid Israel-Hamas conflict



Deadly blast hits refugee camp in Rafah amid Israel-Hamas conflict

A devastating explosion at a refugee camp in the Rafah area has resulted in dozens of casualties, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. Videos from the southern Gaza Strip depict a massive blast and intense fires.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed targeting two senior Hamas leaders at one of the group’s compounds and stated they would investigate reports that the fire had spread to shelters, causing civilian harm. The strike occurred just hours after Hamas launched eight rockets from Rafah towards Tel Aviv, marking the first long-range attack on the city since January.

In a statement released following the blast on Sunday night, the IDF announced it had “eliminated” two senior Hamas figures, Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar, in a “precise” airstrike in northwest Rafah. The IDF emphasized the use of precision weapons aimed at Hamas militants.

Hamas-run authorities reported that 35 people were killed and dozens injured at a camp for displaced Palestinians in northwest Rafah, a designated humanitarian safe zone away from recent military operations.

Among the dead are women and children, with the death toll expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue in the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, approximately 2 km (1.2 miles) northwest of Rafah’s city center.

Eyewitnesses described the catastrophic scene, with one telling Reuters that the entire Tal al-Sultan neighborhood had been “burnt.” Another witness, Fadi Dukhan, recounted hearing a missile explosion and finding the street covered in smoke. He described the harrowing discovery of a girl and a young man “cut into pieces” inside a house.

Earlier on Sunday, air raid sirens sounded around Tel Aviv as central Israel faced a rocket attack from Hamas, launched from near Rafah. The rockets were intercepted by air defense systems or fell harmlessly in fields, with no reported injuries.

Despite an International Court of Justice ruling on Friday calling for a halt, Israel’s military offensive in Rafah continues.

This latest rocket barrage underscores the ongoing threat Hamas poses to Israel and the challenges faced by the Israeli army as it advances into southern Gaza to dismantle what it identifies as Hamas’s “last major stronghold.”

Hamas stated that the rocket attack was a response to the “massacre of civilians.” The exchange occurred ahead of planned ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas, set to resume next week.

Israel’s offensive in Rafah, initiated three weeks ago, aims to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions and free Israeli hostages believed to be held in the town.

The conflict, which began after Hamas-led gunmen attacked Israel on October 7, has led to significant displacement, with over 800,000 Palestinians fleeing Rafah and about 1.5 million sheltering from the fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Since the start of the conflict, nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.