Fighter jets, attack drones hammer Rafah; catastrophe looms – Day 217

Fighter jets, attack drones hammer Rafah; catastrophe looms – Day 217

As US blocks heavy weapons, Israel expands its attack of Rafah. Biden administration reports that Israel’s use of U.S.-provided weapons in Gaza “likely violated international humanitarian law”. Food catastrophe looms as Israel continues to block aid trucks. South Africa wants ICJ to intervene in Rafah. UN General Assembly strongly supports Palestine’s quest for statehood. Israel withholds millions it owes Palestinian Authority. UN wants investigation into mass graves in Gaza. Freedom Flotilla stands with students.

By IAK staff, from reports

Israeli war cabinet votes to expand Rafah operation area.

Axios reports: Amid growing U.S. concerns about the humanitarian situation in Rafah, the Israeli security cabinet approved last night the “expansion of the area of ​​operation” of the Israel Defense Forces in the southern Gaza city, according to three sources with knowledge of the details.

President Biden said this week that if Israel invades Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, the U.S. will stop supplying it with artillery shells, bombs for fighter jets and other offensive weapons.

Two sources said this is a “measured expansion” that does not cross Biden’s “red line.

The third source said the approved expansion includes actions that could be interpreted by the U.S. as crossing Biden’s red line. Israel claims Rafah is a last holdout for Hamas militants.

The three sources said the cabinet also instructed the Israeli team negotiating indirect talks for a hostage and ceasefire deal to continue efforts to reach a deal and try to formulate a new initiative that would lead to a breakthrough.

Fighter jets, attack drones hammer Rafah buildings as more people flee.

Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud reports from Deir Al Balah: More people are leaving Rafah right now, particularly from the central part of the city, as well as towards the west.

Over the last two days, the Israeli military has sent text messages, made phone calls, and dropped leaflets warning people against staying in Rafah city, despite the fact that it has stated its operations are limited to the eastern part of Rafah city.

On the ground, we’re seeing an expansion of military operations. Residential towers and public facilities across Rafah city are being directly targeted by F-16 aircraft and attack drones.

According to eyewitnesses, the eastern part of Rafah city – and the area close to the Rafah crossing – is pretty much cleared of all residential buildings and public facilities, making it easy for the Israeli military to maneuver and push deeper inside the city.

An Israeli air strike has hit a family home in the town of Abasan al-Kabira, on the eastern outskirts of Khan Younis.

The attack killed eight people from the same family and injured many others.


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US says Israel’s use of American arms likely violated international law, but evidence incomplete.

Associated Press reports: The Biden administration said Friday that Israel’s use of U.S.-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law but that wartime conditions prevented U.S. officials from determining that for certain in specific airstrikes.

The finding of “reasonable” evidence to conclude that the U.S. ally had breached international law protecting civilians in the way it conducted its war against Hamas was the strongest statement that the Biden administration has yet made on the matter. The report was delivered to Congress on Friday.

But the caveat that the administration wasn’t able to link specific U.S. weapons to individual attacks by Israeli forces in Gaza could give the administration leeway in any future decision on whether to restrict provisions of offensive weapons to Israel.

While U.S. officials were unable to gather all the information they needed* on specific strikes, the report said that given Israel’s “significant reliance” on U.S.-made weapons, it was “reasonable to assess” that they had been used by Israel’s security forces in instances “inconsistent” with its obligations under international humanitarian law “or with best practices for mitigating civilian harm.”

*NOTE: Western news services overall failed to report accurately on the US State Department’s lack of complete information. The NSM-20 report says clearly, 
Israel has not shared complete information to verify whether U.S. defense articles covered under NSM-20 were specifically used in actions that have been alleged as violations of IHL or IHRL in Gaza, or in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the period of the report. Limited information has been shared to date in response to USG inquiries regarding incidents under review to determine whether U.S. munitions were used in incidents involving civilian harm
Western mainstream media removed Israel’s culpability – for example: “US officials were unable to gather all the information they needed” (Associated Press) or “due to the chaos of the war in Gaza it could not verify specific instances where use of those weapons might have been involved in alleged breaches” (Reuters), “Insufficient evidence” (Washington Post), US doesn’t have “complete information” on whether U.S. weapons were used in those actions. Its authors cite the difficulty of determining facts on the ground in an active war zone as well as Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes” (CBS News); CNN gave no explanation.
Only Al Jazeera reports accurately that “the US State Department indicated Israel did not provide adequate information.”

Israel’s military has the experience, technology and know-how to minimize harm to civilians, but “the results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions as to whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases,” the report said.

International human rights groups and a review by an unofficial panel of former State and military officials, academic experts and others had pointed to more than a dozen Israeli airstrikes for which they said there were credible evidence of violations of the laws of war and humanitarian law. Targets included aid convoys, medical workers, hospitals, journalists, schools and refugee centers and other sites that have broad protection under international law.


Israeli obstruction causes widespread food catastrophe.

OCHA reports: Over 100,000 people already displaced from Rafah are facing dire shortages of shelter, food, water and sanitation services.

Unless fuel is immediately allowed into Gaza, five hospitals, five field hospitals, 28 ambulances, 23 medical points and 17 primary health care centers will only be able to sustain operations for less than 48 hours, warns the Health Cluster.

Eight WFP-supported bakeries in southern Gaza have already ceased operations and four will run out of fuel and supplies in three days.

The stocks of critical aid supplies, including food and fuel, continue to rapidly dwindle for the fourth consecutive day due to the closure of Rafah Crossing and the lack of safe and logistically viable access to Kerem Shalom Crossing. The World Food Programme (WFP) stressed that current supplies of food and fuel will only last a few days, as the agency’s main warehouse in eastern Rafah has become inaccessible. Without them, WFP warned, “operations will go to a standstill,” undermining recent improvements and the sustainability of humanitarian services.

Despite rising humanitarian needs, access constraints continue to significantly hinder the ability of humanitarian actors to reach people in need, particularly in northern Gaza. Between 1 and 9 May, only nine out of 32 humanitarian aid missions (28 percent) to northern Gaza and 25 out of 46 aid missions (54 percent) to areas in southern Gaza that require coordination were facilitated by the Israeli authorities.

NOTE: Thousands of aid trucks are reportedly waiting at the southern border of Gaza, where Israel has made it extremely difficult to pass, employing complicated and arbitrary procedures. Israel has on multiple occasions fired at individuals waiting for food aid (recently killing over 100 at one time), at least once allegedly sending fake text messages to Gazans, telling them to assemble and then shooting at them when they did; Israel has also attacked food aid convoys and those who accompanied them several times. Additionally, Israeli citizens have blocked a border crossing for weeks with no meaningful attempt by Israel to reopen it. 
In mid-March, Israel promised to “flood” Gaza with aid, but has failed to do so.

Truck drivers stranded on Egyptian side of Rafah crossing fear food won’t reach Gaza.

Reuters reports: Aid truck drivers stuck at the Egyptian side of the shut Rafah border crossing say the food they are taking to Gaza could spoil as they wait, exacerbating the besieged and bombarded territory’s hunger crisis.

“The closure of the border crossing is not good for all these trucks because these are fridges, which means machine failure doesn’t give a warning. If the [fridge] stops working, then all of the food inside will be ruined,” trucker Ahmed al-Bayoumi told Reuters.

“Here, there’s no [technician] available to fix things and then we will have to handle the packages again. In any country in the world, food in fridges has priority to be delivered.”

AIPAC: Biden must immediately reverse pause in arms shipment.

Ha’aretz reports: AIPAC released a statement on the State Department’s National Security Memorandum report, claiming that although Israel “is confronting an unprecedented military battlefield,” it is not misusing American-origin equipment, and is not prohibiting or restricting U.S. humanitarian aid from entering Gaza as mandated by section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act.”

According to the report, “there is no reason for critical arms shipments to Israel to be delayed. The administration must immediately reverse its pause and provide our ally the resources it needs to win this war against Hamas and confront the growing dangers from Iran and Hezbollah.”

NOTE: Read more about AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee – one of the most powerful lobbies in the US – here.

South Africa asks World Court to order Israel’s withdrawal from Rafah.

Reuters reports: In filings published on Friday, South Africa is seeking additional emergency measures in light of the ongoing military action in Rafah, which it calls the “last refuge” for Palestinians in Gaza.

South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah as part of additional emergency measures over the war in Gaza, the U.N.’s top court said on Friday.

In the ongoing case brought by South Africa, which accuses Israel of acts of genocide against Palestinians, the World Court in January ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians.

South Africa asked the court to order that Israel cease the Rafah offensive and allow unimpeded access to Gaza for U.N. officials, organizations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and investigators.

According to South Africa, Israel’s military operation is killing the Palestinians of Gaza while at the same time starving them by denying humanitarian aid to enter.

Those who have survived so far are facing imminent death now, and an order from the Court is needed to ensure their survival,” South Africa’s filing said.

Israel did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has previously said it is acting in accordance with international law in Gaza, and has called South Africa’s genocide case baseless and accused Pretoria of acting as “the legal arm of Hamas”.


The video below captures some of the breadth of the displacement since Rafah evacuations began. This is Deir Al Balah:

UN assembly approves resolution granting Palestine new rights and reviving its UN membership bid.

Associated Press reports: The U.N. General Assembly voted by a wide margin on Friday to grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine and called on the Security Council to reconsider Palestine’s request to become the 194th member of the United Nations.

The world body approved the Arab and Palestinian-sponsored resolution by a vote of 143-9 with 25 abstentions. The United States voted against it, along with Israel, Argentina, Czechia, Hungary, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Papua New Guinea.

The vote reflected the wide global support for full membership of Palestine in the United Nations, with many countries expressing outrage at the escalating death toll in Gaza and fears of a major Israeli offensive in Rafah, a southern city where about 1.3 million Palestinians have sought refuge.

It also demonstrated growing support for the Palestinians. A General Assembly resolution on Oct. 27 calling for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza was approved 120-14 with 45 abstentions.

While Friday’s resolution gives Palestine some new rights and privileges, it reaffirms that it remains a non-member observer state without full U.N. membership and the right to vote in the General Assembly or at any of its conferences. And the United States has made clear that it will block Palestinian membership and statehood until direct negotiations with Israel resolve key issues, including security, boundaries and the future of Jerusalem, and lead to a two-state solution.

NOTE: In 2022 the same ambassador from Israel pulled a similarly cheeky (and feeble) stunt. Read: Israeli diplomat’s show-and-tell: a Palestinian “terror rock”

Israel withholding $46m in PA tax revenues: Report.

Middle East Eye reports: Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is reportedly withholding some 170 million shekels ($46m) in tax revenue for the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s Channel 12 reports, quoting anonymous sources close to the far-right politician.

The funds have been withheld for nine days, the source said, with this being done in response to the PA’s attempts to get the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials for alleged violations of international law in Gaza.

Israel, which collects tax revenues on behalf of the PA, has warned that it will initiate a response against the body that will lead to its collapse if the ICC issues arrest warrants.

UN Security Council expresses ‘deep concern’ over reports of mass graves in Gaza.

Andalou Agency reports: The UN Security Council on Friday expressed profound distress over reports of mass graves discovered in and around the Nasser and Al Shifa hospitals in Gaza.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern over reports of the discovery of mass graves, in and around the Nasser and Al Shifa medical facilities in Gaza, where several hundred bodies, including women, children and older persons, were buried,” said a statement.

Emphasizing the urgent need for accountability for violations of international law, the Security Council stressed the necessity for investigators to have unhindered access to all locations of mass graves in Gaza.

“The members of the Security Council reiterated their demand that all parties scrupulously comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, in particular regarding the protection of civilians and civilian objects,” said the statement.

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the importance of allowing families to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives, consistent with international humanitarian law,” it added.

At least seven mass graves have been found in the Gaza Strip as Israel continued its brutal offensive on the enclave that has left more than 34,800 people dead and injured over 78,400 others since Oct. 7, 2023.

Three mass graves were found at Al-Shifa Hospital, three at Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, and one inside Kamel Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, according to Gaza government media office.

What Israel is doing in Gaza is ‘simply mass extermination without the gas chambers,’ says human rights activist and genocide scholar Maung Zarni
What Israel is doing in Gaza is ‘simply mass extermination without the gas chambers,’ says human rights activist and genocide scholar Maung Zarni (photo)

Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition commends university students and staff.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition strongly supports the students and staff of universities across the world who are courageously advocating for an end to their universities’ and their governments’ complicity with Israel’s genocide in Palestine.

The situation in Gaza is a human-made humanitarian crisis of immense proportions. For decades, Palestinians in Gaza have endured the devastating impacts of Israel’s unlawful blockade that has deprived them of their basic rights and necessities.

Over the past seven months, the suffering has intensified as Israel’s control shifted from blockade to bombing, sniping, starvation and apocalyptic-level destruction. The toll of Israel’s barbaric aggression has been catastrophic: more than 35,000 Palestinians killed, almost half of whom are children, over 76,000 injured, more than two million forced to flee their homes, and hundreds of thousands suffering from hunger, dehydration, poverty, preventable diseases and lack of access to essential services, including medical care.

We commend the efforts of students at more than 130 college campuses across the United States and at tens of other universities across the world who are leading a non-violent revolt against the complicity of their institutions in Israel’s apartheid and genocide of the Palestinian people. Instead of listening to students’ urgent pleas, most universities are shamefully repressing, brutalizing, arresting, and suspending students for using their voices to take a stand for freedom and justice.

Such reactions from university administrators and the corresponding violence from law enforcement expose the hypocrisy and double standards in our society whereby those who stand for equality and human rights are vilified, attacked, and jailed, while those supporting apartheid and genocide are not.

(Read the full statement here.)

At least 11 campuses across the world have successfully negotiated to have their demands fully or partially met by the universities.

More News:

Euro-Med Monitor: During its forced evacuation of civilians, Israeli army kills 12 members of same family for no reason
Independent Press: Mandela’s grandson defends pro-Palestine protesters: ‘You are our heroes’
Al Jazeera: ‘It’s not human’: What a French doctor saw in Gaza as Israel invaded Rafah


Palestinian death toll from October 7 – May 10: at least 35,412* (34,904 in Gaza* (at least 14,690 children, 9,680 women), and at least 508 in the West Bank (117 children). This does not include an estimated 7,000 more still buried under rubble (4,900 women and children). Euro-Med Monitor reports 42,510 Palestinian deaths.

At least 42 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons (27 from Gaza, 14 from West Bank).

At least 31 Palestinian children and several adults have died due to malnutrition**.

About 1.7 million, or 75% of Gaza’s population are currently displaced.

About 1.1 million (out of total population of 2.3 million) are facing Catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Palestinian injuries from October 7 – May 10: at least 83,514 (including at least 78,514 in Gaza and 5,000 in the West Bank).

It remains unknown how many Americans are among the casualties in Gaza.

Reported Israeli death toll from October 7 – May 10: ~1,421 (~1,139 on October 7, 2023, of which ~32 were Americans, and ~36 were children); 271 military forces since the ground invasion began in Gaza;, 16 in the West Bank) and~8,730 injured.

Times of Israel reports: The IDF also listed 41 soldiers killed due to friendly fire in Gaza and other military-related accidents – nearly 16%.

NOTE: It is unknown at this time how many of the deaths and injuries in Israel on October 7 were caused by Israeli soldiers.

*Previously, IAK did not include 471 Gazans killed in the Al Ahli hospital blast since the source of the projectile was being disputed. However, given that much evidence points to Israel as the culprit, Israel had previously bombed the hospital and has attacked many others, Israel is prohibiting outside experts from investigating the scene, and since the UN and other agencies are including the deaths from the attack in their cumulative totals, if Americans knew is now also doing so.

**Euro-Med Monitor reports that Gaza’s elderly are dying at an alarmingly high rate. The majority die at home and are buried either close to their residences or in makeshift graves dispersed across the Strip. There are currently more than 140 such cemeteries. Additionally, according to Euromed, thousands have died from starvation, malnourishment, and inadequate medical care; these are considered indirect victims as they were not registered in hospitals. 

Find previous daily casualty figures and daily news updates here.

Hover over each bar for exact numbers.

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