US Urges Israel To Fully Investigate Deadly Strike In Rafah Camp


The United States expressed “deep concern” Tuesday over an apparent Israeli airstrike on Sunday that killed at least 45 Palestinians sheltering in a refugee camp in Rafah, and wounded 200 others. 

“Those images were heartbreaking,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters. 

He said while Israel has a right to go after Hamas, Israel has an obligation to do everything possible to minimize civilian harm while it carries out its operations. 

“We will continue to emphasize to Israel their obligation to comply fully with international humanitarian law, minimize the impact of their operations on civilians and maximize the flow of humanitarian assistance to those in need,” Miller said, adding Israel’s military had promised a swift, comprehensive and transparent investigation. 

“We will be watching those results closely,” he said. 

Israel’s military said it is looking into the possibility that weapons stored in the area hit by the Israeli strike may have sparked a deadly fire at the refugee camp Sunday. A military spokesman said Tuesday the munitions used in the Israeli strike were too small to set off a big blaze. 

The Gaza health ministry said the attack ignited tent fires in an area sheltering displaced people. Israel said it killed two senior Hamas militants in the attack. 

The U.N. Security Council was meeting Tuesday afternoon in a closed session requested by member Algeria to discuss the attack. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement Tuesday that the “relentless violence” must stop and reiterated his call for a humanitarian cease-fire and the unconditional and immediate release of all hostages. 

Gaza medical personnel and residents reported new Israeli airstrikes Tuesday in the area of al-Mawasi on the enclave’s coast, where thousands of people have fled to what Israel has said is a designated “safe zone.” 

The Gaza health ministry said at least 20 civilians were killed. The Israel Defense Forces denied striking the area. 

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said Tuesday that more than 940,000 people have fled Rafah in the past three weeks amid Israel’s offensive. Another 100,000 have been displaced by fighting in northern Gaza. 

U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths issued a statement late Monday calling the Rafah attack “utterly unacceptable.” He criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s explanation that what happened was a “tragic mistake.” 

“Whether the attack was a war crime or a ‘tragic mistake,’ for the people of Gaza, there is no debate,” Griffiths said. “What happened last night was the latest — and possibly most cruel — abomination. To call it ‘a mistake’ is a message that means nothing for those killed, those grieving, and those trying to save lives.” 

Griffiths said the U.N. “warned that a military operation in Rafah would lead to a slaughter” and added that there are no safe areas or humanitarian zones in Gaza. 

“Despite our best effort, not to harm those not involved, unfortunately a tragic mistake happened last night. We are investigating the case,” Netanyahu told the Israeli parliament. 

Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel needs to carry out an offensive in Rafah in order to achieve its goal of ensuring Hamas cannot operate in Gaza and threaten Israel in the future. 

Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, decried the Rafah attack, saying in a statement Monday, “The images from the camp are horrific and point to no apparent change in the methods and means of warfare used by Israel that have already led to so many civilian deaths.” 

Even as he noted the Israeli military’s announced investigation, Türk said it was “shockingly clear” that the decision to strike an area “densely packed with civilians” would result in the “entirely predictable outcome” of the death of more Palestinian civilians. 

Türk called on Israel to abide by last week’s International Court of Justice order to totally halt its offensive in Rafah. He also urged Palestinian armed groups to stop firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel “in clear violation of international humanitarian law” and release all the remaining 100 or so hostages Hamas is holding in Gaza. 

European Council President Charles Michel also called the strikes “horrendous” and urged Israel to stop its offensive in Rafah. 

“Horrendous to see innocent Palestinian civilians killed in the recent attack. There is no safe zone for the internally displaced in Rafah,” Michel said on the X social media platform. 

Qatar’s foreign ministry said Monday that the attack could complicate efforts to mediate stalled cease-fire talks and the return of the hostages held in Gaza. 

The Israel-Hamas war was triggered by the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials, and led to the capture of about 250 hostages. Israel’s subsequent counteroffensive has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, a death toll that includes both civilians and combatants, according to the Gaza health ministry. 

U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. 


The VOA is the Voice of America

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