ISRAEL has been condemned for its latest attack on Rafah in which people were “burned alive” as 35 people were killed.

Strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah hit tents for displaced people with “numerous” people trapped in flaming debris, according to Palestinian health workers.

Gaza’s health ministry said women and children made up most of the dead and that dozens were wounded after the attacks.

The attack comes two days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population had sought shelter before Israel’s incursion earlier this month.

Humza Yousaf was among those to condemn Israel for the attack. Writing on Twitter/X, the former first minister said: “Days after the ICJ orders Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah, the Israeli government bombs displaced people living in tents.

“Innocent men, women & children dismembered and burnt alive. Bear witness to the images and ask yourself, are you on the right side of history?”

Palestinian ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot described what happened as a “massacre” as he said that “several 2000-pound bombs” had been dropped on civilians seeking shelter.

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Tens of thousands of people remain in the area while many others have fled.

Footage from the scene of the largest air strike showed heavy destruction. Israel’s army confirmed the strike and said it hit a Hamas installation and killed two senior militants.

It said it was investigating reports that civilians were harmed. Defence minister Yoav Gallant was in Rafah on Sunday and was briefed on the “deepening of operations” there, his office said.

A spokesperson with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the death toll is likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continue in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood.

The society said the location had been designated by Israel as a “humanitarian area”. It is not included in areas that Israel’s military ordered evacuated earlier this month.

The air strike was reported hours after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza that set off air raid sirens as far away as Tel Aviv for the first time in months in a show of resilience more than seven months into Israel’s massive air, sea and ground offensive.

There were no reports of casualties in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January. Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility.

Israel’s military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from Rafah and “a number” were intercepted, and the launcher was destroyed.

Earlier on Sunday, dozens of aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel under a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. Israel’s military said 126 aid trucks entered by the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing.

It was not immediately clear if humanitarian groups could access the aid — including medical supplies — because of fighting. The crossing has been largely inaccessible because of Israel’s offensive in Rafah.

United Nations agencies say it is usually too dangerous to retrieve the aid, and the World Health Organisation last week said an expanded Israeli incursion in Rafah would have a “disastrous” impact.

“With the humanitarian operation near collapse, the secretary-general emphasises that Israeli authorities must facilitate the safe pick-up and delivery of humanitarian supplies from Egypt entering Kerem Shalom,” the spokesperson for UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

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Egypt refuses to reopen its side of the Rafah crossing until control of the Gaza side is handed back to Palestinians. It agreed to temporarily divert traffic through Kerem Shalom, Gaza’s main cargo terminal, after a call between US President Joe Biden and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of Israel's bombardment, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

Around 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

UK reaction

Reacting to the news, Labour leader Keir Starmer said the offensive against Rafah must stop as he described the scenes as "horrifying".

Asked what he would tell Benjamin Netanyahu if he were prime minister, Starmer said: "Stop. Those scenes, those reports, are horrifying and what makes it worse was this was a safe zone with women and children and families that have already fled a number of times. 

"It's horrifying to see that. I've been saying for some time the Rafah offensive should not take place."

He added: "I was shocked by what I saw overnight, I think any human being would be shocked by what they saw. It's got to stop."