Netanyahu Admits 'Tragic Mistake' in Rafah

US says images from strike that killed dozens of Palestinians are 'heartbreaking'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2024 9:15 AM CDT
Updated May 27, 2024 5:25 PM CDT
Palestine Medics: Israeli Strikes Kill Dozens in Rafah
Palestinian medics treat people wounded in an Israeli bombardment on the Gaza Strip at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
UPDATE May 27, 2024 5:25 PM CDT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Monday that a "tragic mistake" had been made after an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah set fire to a tent camp housing displaced Palestinians and, according to local officials, killed at least 45 people. Netanyahu did not elaborate on the error. Israel's military initially said it had carried out a precise airstrike on a Hamas compound, killing two senior militants. As details of the strike and fire emerged, the military said it had opened an investigation into the deaths of civilians, the AP reports. The strike on Rafah brought a new wave of condemnation, even from Israel's strongest supporters. The US National Security Council said in a statement that the "devastating images" from the strike "are heartbreaking."

May 27, 2024 9:15 AM CDT

Palestinian health workers said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 45 people Sunday and hit tents for displaced people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and "numerous" others were trapped in flaming debris. The Gaza Health Ministry said around half of the dead were women, children, and older adults. The attacks came two days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million population had sought shelter before Israel's incursion earlier this month, per the AP. The strike was reported hours after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza, its first such strike in months.

Israel's army confirmed its own strike and said it hit a Hamas installation and killed two senior Hamas militants. It said it was investigating reports that civilians were harmed. Defense 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 was likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continued in Rafah's Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, about 1.2 miles northwest of the city center. The society asserted that the location had been designated by Israel as a "humanitarian area." The neighborhood isn't included in areas that Israel's military ordered evacuated earlier this month.

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Israel has faced surging international criticism over its war with Hamas, with even some of its closest allies, particularly the United States, expressing outrage at civilian deaths. The new strike is certain to intensify that. Israel asserts that it adheres to international law even as it faces scrutiny in the world's top courts, one of which last week demanded that it halt its offensive in Rafah. The war has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which doesn't distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas. Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians. (More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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