US-backed Rafah massacre: Calls for immediate suspension of Israeli aid after 45 civilians killed

International outrage mounts as images of the Rafah bombing reveal horrific civilian casualties, prompting demands for the U.S. to cease military support for Israel.

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A devastating airstrike by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on a refugee camp in Rafah has ignited international condemnation and urgent calls for the U.S. to halt its military aid to Israel. The bombing, which targeted a tent camp primarily housing forcibly displaced women and children, resulted in the deaths of 45 civilians and left many more injured. This incident has intensified criticism of the Biden administration’s continued support for Israel amid escalating violence in Gaza.

Emergency workers have warned that the death toll is likely to rise, as many individuals remain trapped in the encampment, which was engulfed in flames. NBC News reported that the strike occurred less than a mile from a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facility, which received at least 180 injured people on Sunday night.

“We are horrified by this deadly event, which shows once again that nowhere is safe,” MSF stated on social media. The organization’s emergency coordinator in Gaza, Samuel Johann, emphasized the indiscriminate nature of the attack, highlighting the significant civilian toll.

Muhammad Al-Mughir, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Civil Defense, told NBC that the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, designated as a “humanitarian area,” was the target. This area has seen over 800,000 people forcibly displaced this month alone due to Israel’s ground invasion. Since October, over 1 million people have fled to Rafah as part of Israel’s ongoing siege in Gaza.

Two days before the bombing, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a directive to Israel to halt its military offensive in the Rafah governorate. Despite claims from Israeli officials that efforts were made to avoid civilian harm and that the attack targeted senior Hamas leaders, international humanitarian leaders remain unconvinced. Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, described Israel’s actions as “cruelty” and a blatant defiance of international law.

Albanese’s March report labeled Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as genocidal, noting that the IDF has killed at least 36,050 Palestinians. Israeli officials have made chilling statements about treating everyone in Gaza as legitimate targets and have called for the “total annihilation” of cities in the enclave.

Grim images from Rafah showed tents ablaze and charred corpses, including a video of a man holding what appeared to be the beheaded body of a child. Although NBC News could not independently verify the situation on the ground, the distressing visuals have fueled global demands for immediate action.

Human rights organizations and advocacy groups have vehemently condemned the U.S. government’s financial and political backing of Israel. Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, decried the U.S. as complicit in the massacre. “The Palestinian child shown without a head would still be alive today had our government not offered Israel’s far-right government unceasing support for the slaughter of Palestinian civilians and the ethnic cleansing of Gaza,” said Awad, urging President Biden and top officials to change course.

Prominent journalist Mehdi Hasan criticized the silence from the Biden administration and the broader U.S. political and media establishments. “The (lack of) reaction to the scenes of sheer carnage, burned refugee bodies, and decapitated babies coming out of Rafah tonight from the U.S. political and media establishments is nothing other than the normalizing, the banalizing, of genocide,” Hasan stated.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, directed his frustration at European Union leaders for their continued support of Israel’s Gaza operations. He questioned how many more red lines needed to be crossed before the EU took decisive action.

Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive leaders in the U.S. have echoed these sentiments. In a statement posted to X, Ocasio-Cortez described the bombing as an “indefensible atrocity” and urged President Biden to suspend military aid to Israel. She highlighted the attack’s blatant disregard for Biden’s own “red line” and the ICJ’s call for a ceasefire.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also condemned the bombing, emphasizing the urgency of suspending aid. “This IS an incursion into Rafah, the very incursion that President Biden said he would not tolerate and would lead to stopping aid. It’s past time. There is nowhere safe in Gaza,” Jayapal stated.

Humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International, have documented repeated violations of international human rights law by Israeli forces. Their latest report cites three separate airstrikes last month that killed 44 Palestinian civilians, including 32 children. These findings contribute to the mounting evidence of a pattern of war crimes committed by the Israeli military in Gaza.

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