Netanyahu calls civilian deaths in Rafah after latest Israeli attacks ‘tragic mistake’

Netanyahu calls civilian deaths in Rafah after latest Israeli attacks ‘tragic mistake’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an Israeli strike that killed at least 45 Palestinians over the weekend a “tragic mistake” and called for an investigation into the civilian deaths Monday.

The Israeli strike on the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood of Rafah targeted a humanitarian zone filled with tents, where Israel’s military previously instructed displaced Palestinians to shelter from the ongoing war against militant group Hamas, the Gaza Health Ministry said. The Israeli military claimed the strike killed two senior Hamas leaders.

“Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night, there was a tragic mistake,” Netanyahu said Monday in an address to Israel’s parliament. “We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion, because this is our policy.”

Gaza health officials said most of the dead were women and children, and noted that the death toll is likely to rise as “countless” were trapped in rubble.

The strike was widely denounced, as criticism rises on the Israeli military operation in Rafah. A White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios on Monday that the attack was “heartbreaking.”

“Israel has a right to go after Hamas… but as we’ve been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians,” the spokesperson said. “We are actively engaging the IDF and partners on the ground to assess what happened.”

French President Emmanuel Macron used the strike as an opportunity to again call for a cease-fire in the conflict.

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” Macron wrote in a post social platform X. “I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire.”

The attack comes just days after the United Nations’s International Court of Justice ordered Israel to stop its operations in Rafah, the last remaining major settlement in Gaza that has not been invaded by Israel.

The Israeli military has slowly encroached on the city, despite strong warnings from the Biden administration. President Biden warned earlier this month that he would stop military aid shipments to Israel if it invaded Rafah without a plan approved by U.S. leaders to limit civilian casualties.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people are believed to be sheltering in Rafah, and more than 80 percent of the territory’s population overall are displaced from their homes. The U.N. said famine has begun in parts of the region as civilians struggle to get access to humanitarian aid.

More than 120 aid trucks entered the city Sunday from Egypt, the first since the Israeli military seized the crossing earlier this month. It was not immediately clear if local aid groups could access the humanitarian supplies, however, The Associated Press reported, as fighting in the area has made humanitarian work difficult.

Much of southern Gaza, including Rafah, has been mostly cut off from aid since the Israeli military began what it described as a limited operation into the area early this month.

An American-built floating pier has begun to deliver some aid to the area, though aid groups say it is much less than promised and that there are not enough trucks to adequately distribute supplies.

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