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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Israel had not ordered Palestinians to leave the area it struck on Sunday



The area where Israel carried out a strike that killed dozens of Palestinians at a displaced camp on Sunday was not included in Israel’s evacuation orders in early May.

By Lauren Leatherby


The area where Israel carried out a strike that killed dozens of Palestinians at a displaced camp Sunday was not included in Israel’s evacuation orders in early May, and some Palestinians sheltering in the camp said in interviews that they had believed it was a safe zone.


In preparation for its ground offensive in Rafah, the Israeli military issued evacuation orders that focused on areas east of the city center near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel. The Tal al Sultan neighborhood where Sunday’s strike happened was not included.


Months before the operation, in December, the military had even told Palestinians to go to Tal al Sultan for safety. The Israeli military has not specifically updated its instructions for the area since then, according to a review of official Israeli military statements on social platform X.


Many people had evacuated the area anyway as the Israeli military issued evacuation orders for areas to the east and started its push across Rafah. But others remained, and some Palestinians who were sheltering in the camp said in interviews that they had thought the area was a safe zone.


“Civilian families are sheltering here in the western part of Rafah that is supposed to be a safe zone, according to the army,” said Mohammed Abu Ghanem, 26, who had been sheltering in the camp when Israel struck.


“It was announced it was a safe zone, and we were listening,” said Bilal al-Sapti, 30, who had also been sheltering in the camp with his family.


While the camp was not in an area subject to an explicit evacuation order, it was also not part of a “humanitarian zone” along the coast that Israel designated as a safe destination in evacuation orders in early May.


Israeli officials have reiterated that the strike had taken place outside of the designated humanitarian zone.


Around 1 million people have fled Rafah amid Israel’s assault on the city, according to the United Nations, including many in the western part of the city and in the area around the camp.


The Israeli military has said the strike in Rafah on Sunday — which ignited a deadly fire in the camp and killed dozens of people — was targeting a Hamas compound. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “tragic accident” that civilians were killed.


“Despite our efforts to minimize civilian casualties during the strike, the fire that broke out was unexpected and unintended,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesperson, said Tuesday.


Satellite imagery captured the morning after the strike showed only burn marks remaining where rows of structures had stood.

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