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Tel Aviv stands on the wrong side of justice with too many 'tragic mishaps': China Daily editorial | Updated: 2024-05-29 19:41
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Smoke rises following Israeli strikes during an Israeli military operation in Rafah, as seen from Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on May 28. [Photo/Agencies]

Israel's ongoing assault on Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip continues to cause heavy casualties among the Palestinian civilians that have congregated in the city as a result of Israel's military campaign.

Israeli shelling and air strikes killed at least 37 people on Monday and Tuesday, most of them sheltering in tents, and this happened after strikes on Sunday had already triggered a deadly fire that engulfed tents in a camp for displaced Palestinians, killing 45 people, according to Palestinian sources.

Israel said it had targeted Hamas operatives and had not intended to cause civilian casualties, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the Sunday deaths of civilians a "tragic mishap". But there have been too many "tragic mishaps" since Israel launched its campaign to eliminate Hamas from the Palestinian enclave.

No matter what excuse it gives, Israel cannot deny that it is pressing on with its military actions in Rafah despite the ever rising death toll of civilians. And despite the condemnation and repeated calls from the international community that it stop its military operations.

The fact that it is basically impossible to distinguish between Hamas militants and civilians in the congested Palestinian city makes Israel's military offensive in Rafah a collective punishment of all Palestinian people.

The Gaza health department said that about 36,000 people in Gaza, many of them women and children, have already been killed since Israel's strike against Hamas in response to the latter's attack on southern Israel on Oct 7, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians. More than 1 million Palestinians were taking shelter in Rafah before Israel started its military retaliation in early May, many of them already displaced multiple times in the nearly eight-month war between Israel and Hamas. Families are now scattered across makeshift tent camps and other war-ravaged areas. The International Court of Justice of the United Nations has classified the humanitarian situation in Rafah as "disastrous", and indicated that the situation could "intensify even further" if the Israeli operation in Rafah continues.

Because of the dire situation the Palestinians have found themselves in since the latest round of Israeli attacks started, the UN court has called on Israel to abide by its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and to "immediately halt" its military offensive in Rafah.

Yet despite this, the enabler of Israel's retribution, the Joe Biden administration, has so far refrained from making any policy changes as it continues to facilitate the Israeli actions in Gaza, which is tantamount to acquiescing in what its closest ally in the Middle East has been doing in Rafah. John Kirby, US national security spokesman, showed the extent to which the administration is willing to distort the truth when he told reporters on Tuesday that Israel had not violated Biden's "redline" for withholding future offensive arms transfers because it has not launched a full-scale ground invasion into Rafah.

How many more civilians must die before the US administration reconsiders its unequivocal support for Israel? What is happening in Rafah is a tragedy, that, if not immediately and properly addressed, will proceed to develop into a lasting stain on the image of the US and the collective conscience of the international community. The UN, along with all the countries concerned, must work together to ask Israel to stop its butchery. Civilians and civilian facilities in Gaza must be protected.

That Israel has decided to "go it alone", with a lot of help from its friend, does not mean it should have a free hand to do whatsoever it wants in disregard of the basic international norms on the protection of civilians during armed conflicts.

It will be held to account for its actions, if only in the court of public opinion.

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