Israel faced a wave of international condemnation Monday over a strike that Gaza officials said killed 45 people when it set off a fire that ripped through a tent city for displaced Palestinians.

Adding to already heightened tensions since Israel launched a ground operation in Rafah in early May, the Israeli and Egyptian militaries reported a “shooting incident” Monday that killed one Egyptian guard in the border area between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip. Both forces said they were investigating.

Israel’s military said Sunday evening’s attack in the southern Rafah area had targeted and killed two senior Hamas operatives—but it also sparked a fire that Palestinians and many Arab countries condemned as a “massacre.”

A US National Security Council spokesperson said Israel “must take every precaution possible to protect civilians.”

The UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland called on Israel to conduct a “thorough and transparent” investigation into the strike, as the Israeli military said it was launching a probe.

UN human rights chief Volker Türk decried “horrific” images that “point to no apparent change in the methods and means of warfare used by Israel that have already led to so many civilian deaths.”

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X that “these operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians.”

EU foreign ministers agreed to call a meeting with Israel to get it to explain its actions in its Rafah offensive despite a UN court order to halt it, said the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell, who called the strike “horrifying.”

Relatives of captives held in Gaza, who have increased pressure on Netanyahu’s government demanding action to secure a hostage release deal, heckled the premier from the public gallery as he was speaking and raised posters of their loved ones.

Israel’s army said its aircraft “struck a Hamas compound in Rafah” and killed Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar, senior officials for the militant group in the occupied West Bank.

Gaza’s civil defense agency said the strike ignited a fire that tore through a displacement center in northwestern Rafah near a facility of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

‘Dangerous Violation’

Footage from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society showed chaotic nighttime scenes of paramedics racing to the attack site and evacuating the wounded.

Civil defense agency official Mohammad al-Mughayyir said the rescue efforts were hampered by war damage and the impacts of Israel’s siege.

“There is a fuel shortage … there are roads that have been destroyed” as well as “a shortage of water to extinguish fires,” he said.

The Israeli attack sparked strong regional protests from mediators Egypt and Qatar as well as from Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Egypt deplored the “targeting of defenseless civilians” and labeled it part of “a systematic policy aimed at widening the scope of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip to make it uninhabitable.”

Jordan accused Israel of “ongoing war crimes,” Saudi Arabia condemned “the continued massacres,” and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed “to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable.”

Qatar condemned a “dangerous violation of international law” and voiced “concern that the bombing will complicate ongoing mediation efforts” towards a truce.

The African Union chair Moussa Faki Mahamat also condemned the attack on X saying, “Israel continues to violate international law with impunity and in contempt of an ICJ ruling two days ago ordering an end to its military action in Rafah.”

The top world court, the International Court of Justice, on Friday ordered Israel to halt any offensive in Rafah and elsewhere that could bring about “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians.

With AFP