US condemns loss of life, but says no policy changes after civilian deaths in Israeli strike (2024)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday condemned the loss of life of dozens of civilians as a result of an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, but said it is not planning any policy changes as a result of the Israeli actions.

National security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Israel had not violated President Joe Biden’s “red line” for withholding future offensive arms transfers because it has not, and it appears to the U.S. that it will not, launch a full-scale ground invasion into the city in southern Gaza.

“Everything that we can see tells us that they are not moving into a major ground operation in population centers in the center of Rafah,” Kirby said. Most of those killed in the Sunday strike were sheltering in tents.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “tragic mishap” was made in carrying out the airstrike, adding to the surging international criticism Israel has faced over its war with Hamas, with even its closest allies expressing outrage at civilian deaths.

Biden and his top advisers have repeatedly warned the Israelis against carrying out widescale operations in Rafah without a plan to secure the safety of innocent civilians. But the administration made clear that it would not move — at least not immediately — to curtail any support for Israel as a result of the strike.

But other global leaders were sharper in their condemnation.

President Emmanuel Macron used social media to say that “these operations must stop.” The Foreign Ministry of Germany called the images of the strike “unbearable” and said the “civilian population must finally be better protected.” And Qatar, a key mediator in attempts to secure a cease-fire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, said the Rafah strike could “complicate” talks.

The incident 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 people had sought shelter before Israel’s incursion earlier this month. Tens of thousands of people remain in the area, while many others have fled.

Kirby said Biden’s “not making decisions based on popularity or public opinion polls here or around the world,” but acknowledged it wasn’t in the U.S. interest or “our Israeli partner’s interest for them to become further isolated” on the world stage.

He called the loss of life “heartbreaking” and “horrific,” and said “we certainly condemn the loss of life here.” He added that the U.S. was monitoring the results of an Israeli investigation into the strike, which suggested the civilian deaths were the result of a secondary explosion after a successful strike on two Hamas operatives.

“We understand that this strike did kill two senior Hamas heads who are directly responsible for attacks,” Kirby said. “We’ve also said many times Israel must take every precaution possible to do more to protect innocent life.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters that Israel’s weeks-old offensive in Rafah was still on a “far different” scale than the assaults Israeli forces waged on other cities in Gaza earlier in the seven-month war against Hamas. The U.S. had urged Israel not to replicate those earlier attacks in Rafah, given the vulnerable civilians crowded there.

Miller said he had no direct knowledge of reported accounts from witnesses on the ground Tuesday that Israeli tanks had entered the center of Gaza, and noted Israel had denied responsibility for a new Israeli strike outside of Rafah on Tuesday that Gaza health officials said killed more than 20 people.

Asked whether the strike would result in any U.S. policy changes, Kirby said, “I have no policy changes to speak to.”

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said she did not know whether it was a U.S.-provided weapon that was used in the deadly Sunday strike that killed the dozens of civilians at a displacement camp. “I do not know what type of ammunition was used in that airstrike,” Singh said. “I have to refer you to the Israelis to speak to that.”

The Israelis have said they used small-diameter precision munitions in the attack and have suggested that a secondary explosion caused the number of civilian deaths. Singh said the U.S. has not paused shipments to Israel in the wake of the strike. “Security assistance continues to flow,” Singh said.

Still, Kirby said the incident reflected the challenge of conducting military operations in densely populated areas like Rafah, a concern that Biden and his top advisers have repeatedly raised with the Israelis.

“There’s going to be an investigation. They’ve already said it was a tragic mistake,” he added. “They’re looking into it. They have been able to investigate themselves and hold people accountable in the past. We’ll see what they do here.”


AP writers Tara Copp and Ellen Knickmeyer contributed.

US condemns loss of life, but says no policy changes after civilian deaths in Israeli strike (2024)


US condemns loss of life, but says no policy changes after civilian deaths in Israeli strike? ›

US condemns loss of life, but says no policy changes after civilian deaths in Israeli strike. WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday condemned the loss of life of dozens of civilians as a result of an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, but said it is not planning any policy changes as a result of the Israeli actions.

How many people have died in the Israel war? ›

As of 21 May 2024, over 37,000 people (35,562 Palestinian and 1,478 Israeli have been reported as killed in the Israel–Hamas war, including 105 journalists (100 Palestinian, 2 Israeli and 3 Lebanese) and over 224 humanitarian aid workers, including 179 employees of UNRWA.

How many people have died in Rafah? ›

At least 45 people have been killed, including women and children, in an Israeli air strike on a camp for displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

Was Palestine a country before Israel? ›

While the State of Israel was established on 15 May 1948 and admitted to the United Nations, a Palestinian State was not established. The remaining territories of pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank - including East Jerusalem- and Gaza Strip, were administered from 1948 till 1967 by Jordan and Egypt, respectively.

How did Egypt lose Gaza? ›

1967 Arab–Israeli War

On 5 June 1967, weeks after Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran and cut off Israeli shipping, Israel attacked Egypt, initiating the Six-Day War. It quickly defeated the surrounding Arab states and occupied the Gaza Strip, along with the West Bank and other territory, ending Egypt's occupation.

How many million died in Iraq? ›

The range given was 946,000 to 1,120,000 deaths. A nationally representative sample of approximately 2,000 Iraqi adults answered whether any members of their household (living under their roof) were killed due to the Iraq War. 22% of the respondents had lost one or more household members.

How many children were killed in Rafah? ›

Thirty-two children were killed in the three strikes on al-Maghazi and Rafah in the Occupied Gaza Strip last month. Since October 2023, Amnesty International has conducted in-depth investigations into 16 Israeli air strikes that killed a total of 370 civilians, including 159 children, and left hundreds more wounded.

How many people have died in Israel vs Palestine since 2000? ›

As per B'Tselem, an Israeli human-rights organisation, 10,712 Palestinians and 1,330 Israelis had been killed since 2000 till this year, before the start of the current violence. The first Intifada in 1987 led to major bloodshed in Palestine, which eventually led to the Oslo peace accords.

How many Jews died in 1948 war? ›

On February 24, 1949, the governments of Israel and Egypt agreed to an armistice. More than 6,000 Israeli Jews, including 4,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilians were killed during the Israeli war of independence, More than 10,000 Arab soldiers and civilians were killed during the Israeli war of independence.

How many Israeli soldiers died in 6 day war? ›

The exact number of Israeli soldiers who died in the Six-Day War is unknown, though the number is usually placed as somewhere between 776 and 983. These numbers come from official estimates from the Israeli Defense Force. In addition, about 4,517 Israeli soldiers were wounded and fifteen were captured.

How many times has Israel fallen? ›

During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.

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