At least 45 people, including women and children, have been killed in an Israeli air strike on a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, southern Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The attack on Sunday night targeted the Tal al-Sultan area, resulting in a large explosion and intense fires.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated that the strike killed two senior Hamas officials and acknowledged reports of civilian casualties due to the strike and subsequent fire. The IDF is reviewing the incident, with initial statements emphasizing that the operation targeted legitimate military objectives based on precise intelligence.

The air strike came hours after Hamas fired eight rockets from Rafah towards Tel Aviv, marking the first long-range attack on the city since January. The rockets were mostly intercepted or fell in fields, causing damage to a house but no injuries.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that the air strike targeted tents for displaced people near a UN facility in Tal al-Sultan, approximately 2km northwest of central Rafah. Graphic footage from the scene showed structures ablaze, with first responders and bystanders carrying bodies amidst the destruction.

Among the dead were 23 women, children, and elderly individuals. Mohammad al-Mughayyir, a senior official in Gaza’s civil defense agency, described seeing “charred bodies and dismembered limbs” and numerous cases of amputations and wounded individuals.

International reactions were swift, with French President Emmanuel Macron expressing outrage and calling for an immediate ceasefire and adherence to international law. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) described the reports as “horrifying” and highlighted the difficulties in maintaining communication with its teams in Rafah. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reiterated calls for an immediate and sustained ceasefire.

The IDF’s operations in Rafah continue despite a recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling demanding Israel halt military actions that could lead to the destruction of the Palestinian civilian population. Israeli officials maintain that their actions comply with international law and aim to eliminate Hamas strongholds and rescue hostages.

The conflict in Gaza, which began following a cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7, has resulted in over 36,050 deaths, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The ongoing military campaign seeks to dismantle Hamas and prevent further attacks on Israeli territory.