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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Rafah refugee camp strike a ‘tragic mistake’ – Netanyahu

A probe has been launched into the IDF targeting process, the Israeli leader said

Israel has launched an investigation after at least 45 Palestinian refugees were killed in Sunday’s IDF strike on the overcrowded southern Gazan city of Rafah.

According to ABC News, shrapnel from the strike ignited a fuel tank 100 meters away from the intended target, creating a large fire at an encampment housing displaced people.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged the civilian deaths in a speech to Israel’s parliament on Monday. “Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night there was a tragic mistake,” he said, as quoted by the Associated Press. “We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion because this is our policy.”

The IDF previously said the strike in the Tel Al-Sultan area had killed two senior Hamas officials, including the commander of the Palestinian militant group’s West Bank headquarters.

In a separate statement, the Israeli army insisted that it had taken “many steps to reduce the chance of harming uninvolved [civilians], including aerial surveillance, the use of precision munitions, and additional intelligence information.” It added that “no harm was expected to uninvolved civilians.”

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The Times of Israel cited an IDF source as saying that two missiles with a “reduced in size” warhead were used in the strike.

The incident has added to international pressure on Israel for a comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza or to at least scale down operations in the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that he was “outraged” by the deaths of refugees. A spokesperson for the US National Security Council called the images emerging from Rafah “heartbreaking” and urged Israel to “take every precaution possible to protect civilians.”

While the IDF denies deliberately targeting civilians, it has acknowledged lapses in its targeting process in the past, including an attack on an aid convoy last month that left seven foreign nationals dead.

In his speech on Monday, Netanyahu vowed to continue the fight against Hamas. “If we surrender, we will deliver a great victory to terrorism, to Iran, and to the entire axis of evil — those who wish us dead,” he said.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in more than seven months of fighting, according to local Hamas-run authorities.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the militants raided southern Israeli settlements on October 7, leaving some 1,200 people dead and taking more than 200 hostages. Dozens of captives were subsequently released as part of prisoner exchanges during a weeklong truce in November.