All eyes on Rafah?


By Ilse Strauss

The images tug at your heart and haunt you late into the night. Flames rip through makeshift shelters as soot-covered figures scramble desperately to rescue the residents inside. Empty-eyed refugees sifting through the ashes hours later for signs of life that the flames did not consume. Mothers who scream heavenward as they cherish the bodies of children who perished in the fire one last time.

The images of devastation coming from a camp for homeless Palestinians in Rafah (in what Hamas says is the result of an Israeli airstrike) were enough to make even those who stand with the Jewish state wonder: “How could Israel designated humanitarian area attack?”.

The simple answer? Israel did not.

In fact, the civilian loss of life in what the Israel Defense Forces described as “an intelligence-based precision strike targeting senior Hamas terrorists,” came as a shock even to Israel. Why?

Israel targeted two senior Hamas terrorists overnight last Sunday using precision munitions with 34 kg of explosives. The two terrorists were at that time in a confirmed Hamas compound in Tal as Sultan, Rafah, about 1.7 kilometers from the Al-Mawasi Humanitarian Area, the compound where Hamas claims Israel’s attack took place.

But how did a precision attack on a target almost 2 kilometers from the humanitarian area lead to the tragic death of an alleged 45 civilians in a designated safe area? Simple answer? Hamas.

The terrorist organization is notorious for using their own people as human shields. And so it was that Sunday evening. Hamas used an area close to the camp and more than 100 meters from Israel’s target as a storage place for ammunition. These munitions caught fire and ignited the inferno that tragically claimed the lives of Palestinian civilians.

It’s not just the Israeli army that makes the claim. Audio footage of conversations between Palestinians in Rafah discussing the attack and subsequent fire has been widely shared on social media. These Palestinians clearly identify the source of the fire as Hamas ammunition deliberately placed near the humanitarian zone by the terrorist organization.

Footage posted on X by the account @AbuAliEnglish follows the conversation between two Palestinian eyewitnesses watching the fire in the refugee camp. “Did they (Israel) attack an arms storehouse (of Hamas)?” asked the first. “Not a warehouse. A vehicle full of ammunition and weapons,” came the reply. “It belongs to the guys (Hamas)?” asked the first again. “Natural. Who else but Hamas,” came the reply.

As the two men continue to discuss the deplorable sight before them, sparks caused by secondary explosions from the ammunition are clearly visible.

A second recording of a conversation between two Hamas members was made available by the Israeli army and tells a similar story. “All the ammunition they (Hamas) had started to explode,” says the first speaker. “Bags of money flew in the air.” “Was this (ammunition that exploded) really ours?” asked the second speaker. “Yes, this is an ammunition warehouse. I tell you It exploded,” came the reply. “I mean, the Jewish bombing was not strong. It was not a strong missile… And then many secondary explosions.”

This begs the question: why would anyone do something as evil as storing their weapons next to a refugee camp? Simply. To ensure that an Israeli attack – even a small, precise one with a legitimate terrorist target in its sights – would cause such a civilian tragedy that Israel would be damned in the international community, especially during a time when said international community chooses to side with a terrorist organization that proudly films themselves while committing the most disgusting acts.

Hamas’s plan worked very well. After all, it does every time. That Sunday night’s tragedy sparked an international trend, with the phrase #AllEyesonRafah spreading on social media.

One of the questions I often get when someone hears I’m pro-Israel and anti-Hamas usually sounds something like: “You’re a mother. You are a Christian. How can you condone the suffering in the Gaza Strip?”.

After all these months, I am still amazed at the misunderstanding, at the assumption that standing with Israel means standing against the Palestinians, as if pro-Israel means anti-Palestinian. And usually it is those who do not understand the situation in the Middle East well and have never lived in the environment and culture themselves who make the assumption.

I have a standard way of answering that accusation with facts. “As a mother, as a Christian, as a human being, the suffering of the people in Gaza is something that breaks my heart. It keeps me awake at night. And that’s why I stand for those who want to eliminate the source of suffering. Yes, the people of Gaza are suffering tremendously. And Hamas alone is responsible for every bit of that suffering.”

Israel did not want this war. For years they looked the other way as the missiles rained down. For a decade they worked on defense instead of attack. The Iron Dome was born precisely to stop a war. But Hamas decided otherwise. Death instead of life. The destruction of Israel above the well-being of their people.

War is unimaginably cruel. According to the United Nations, any standard war claims the lives of eight times more civilians than soldiers. Let that sink in for a moment. If Hamas had not attacked a sovereign nation on October 7, this war would not have raged. If Hamas had not deliberately chosen to store their ammunition next to a camp for the homeless, the 45 civilians who died on Sunday would still be alive.

This is why the sole responsibility for every death in this war, including that of the civilians in the Al-Mawasi Humanitarian Area, rests with Hamas, not Israel.

  • Ilse lives with her husband, little daughter and three dachshunds in Jerusalem. She serves as a volunteer at Bridges for Peace, a Christian organization that builds relationships between Christians and Jews.