Main Menu
Open Letter to the UN Security Council: Ceasefire Urgently Needed Amid Israel’s Genocidal Massacre in Rafah, Defying ICJ Provisional Measures Orders
28، May 2024

On 26 May 2024—less than three days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its latest provisional measures order instructing Israel to, inter alia, immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah and maintain open the Rafah crossing—Israel deliberately attacked internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in tents in Tal Al-Sultan, western Rafah. Al Mezan, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reiterate the urgent need for the United Nations (UN) Security Council Member States to take all measures within their disposal to ensure an immediate, unconditional ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Almost eight months since the start of Israel’s genocidal military campaign, resulting in horrifying massacres such as Sunday’s harrowing scenes of a decapitated child and burning IDPs, including children and women, and the retrieval of their charred bodies from tattered tents, the UN Security Council must act immediately.

According to our field information, at approximately 20:47 on Sunday, 26 May 2024, Israeli warplanes launched several missiles at an area designated for IDPs near UNRWA warehouses in northwestern Rafah. Israel had deceitfully designated this area as a “safe zone” and ordered IDPs and residents to evacuate to it, only to target it with multiple missiles. The missiles struck numerous tents that are either made of cloth or tinplate, setting them ablaze along with nearby vehicles. The attack killed 23 Palestinian IDPs—including five women and nine children; one of whom remains unidentified—burning and tearing their bodies to shreds. Meanwhile, dozens more sustained various wounds and burns.

Killed and injured Palestinians were transferred to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, and two field hospitals and two medical points in Rafah, since Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital, Rafah’s primary healthcare facility, has ceased its medical services as it is situated within Israel’s designated evacuation zone. 

Sameer Ahmad Abu Al-Sabah, 67, a resident of Al-Bureij refugee camp, said:

On 4 January 2024, I was displaced with my family of 4 and my son’s family of 8 to near UNRWA warehouses in Rafah. At around 20:47 on Sunday, 26 May 2024, I was in our tin plated tent, waiting for the call to the ‘Isha prayer. I did not hear an explosion but rather a sound of something falling near the tent. I tried to open the tent door, but I could not and suddenly saw fire quickly catching our tent. I escaped through the tent window and saw my neighbour, Mahmoud Nafiz Hammad, 43, from Gaza, lying on the ground outside his tent, with his son asking me for help. Mahmoud’s face was all burned and full of shrapnel. He later succumbed to his injuries. I also saw around 5 children and a woman, some of them charred and torn in shreds. Later, firefighters arrived and extinguished the fire. Ambulances and private civilian cars transferred the injured and killed to hospitals, including some from Al-‘Attar family displaced from Beit Lahia and my neighbours in the displacement tent.

Mohammad Majid Khaleel Al-‘Attar, 25, a resident of Beit Lahia, northern Gaza, said:

At the beginning of the war on Gaza in 2023, I was forcibly displaced with my family and relatives to near the UNRWA warehouse, northwest of Rafah. On Sunday, 26 May 2024, between Maghrib and ‘Isha prayers, I heard two explosions due to an airstrike by the Israeli occupying forces warplanes in proximity to the IDPs’ camp. The bombing set the tents ablaze, 300 meters away from where I was. I rushed there with my father, and when we arrived, we saw fire engulfing several tents, including my relatives. Due to the intense flames, we couldn’t approach them. After the arrival of the Civil Defense teams and extinguishing the fire, several of my relatives were transferred, killed and injured, to the hospital. It was difficult to identify their identities, including Hamada Mohammad Suheil Al-‘Attar, 35, his wife Samar Suheil Al-‘Attar, 38, his brother Hindawi Mohammad Suheil Al-‘Attar, 29, Mayada Hisham Al-‘Attar, 18, Manal Ghannam Al-‘Attar, 43, and a beheaded unidentified body.

This attack on IDPs is not an isolated incident but rather emblematic of Israel’s systematic policy. In just 24 hours, on 26 May, Israeli warplanes carried out 10 aerial and artillery attacks on shelters across the Gaza Strip, resulting in the killing and injuring of tens of Palestinians: at around 22:24, Israeli warplanes targeted a house belonging to the Dahleez Family on Imam ‘Ali Street, northwestern Rafah, without a prior warning, killing five of its residents, including three family members, and wounding others. Almost ten minutes later, the Israeli warplanes targeted a house belonging to the Za’anounah family in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood, western Rafah, without prior warning. As a result, Mohammed Za’anounah, and his seven-month-pregnant wife, Yasmin Za’anounah-Meqdad, and others were wounded. So far in May, 210 Palestinians, including 65 children and 36 women, were killed in Rafah. Of those, 165 have been killed since the start of the Israeli military ground invasion on 6 May 2024.

Since the start of the ongoing genocide, and as of noon on 27 May 2024, 36,050 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, while 81,026 others have been wounded, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

As we address this open letter to the UN Security Council Members, the Israeli military continues with its aerial, artillery and naval bombardment across the Gaza Strip, inflicting further killings, injuries, and destruction to buildings and infrastructure. Over two million Palestinians continue to suffer, haunted by the fear of uncertainty—unsure if they will be spared Israeli bombardment or if they will be united with loved ones; and uncertain when they will have access to water, food and adequate medical assistance. For eight months and 76 years, we have seen and endured the inaction of Third States, and, at best, heard your words of condemnation without meaningful action.

The time for mere verbal condemnations is over. Third States, especially Member States of the UN Security Council, must ensure Israel complies with the legally binding ICJ’s provisional measures orders by taking stronger and more effective actions to enforce an immediate, unconditional ceasefire in Gaza. To this end, Third States, including Member States of the UN Security Council, must also use all mechanisms at their disposal— including imposing sanctions, a two-way arms embargo and countermeasures on Israel, in accordance with international law. This bloodshed must end; the exceptional treatment of Israel and the cover-ups by its allies at the UN Security Council must cease. ICJ orders are legally binding and must be fully and effectively implemented.