Netanyahu Acknowledges ‘Tragic Mistake’ in Rafah

Netanyahu Acknowledges ‘Tragic Mistake’ in Rafah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas, in Jerusalem on Feb. 18, 2024. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips

5/29/2024

Updated: 5/29/2024

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “tragic mistake” led to the death of civilians in a tent city in Rafah during an Israeli airstrike earlier this week.
Mr. Netanyahu did not elaborate on the error. Israel’s military initially said it had carried out a precise airstrike on a Hamas compound on May 26, killing two senior militants. As details of the strike and fire emerged, the military said it had opened an investigation into civilian deaths.
“Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night there was a tragic mistake,” Mr. Netanyahu said on May 27 in an address to Israel’s parliament, according to a translation.
“We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion because this is our policy.”
The Israeli military’s top legal official, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, said authorities were examining the strike and that the military regrets the loss of civilian lives.
Doctors Without Borders said it treated about 180 people with wounds caused by the Sunday night airstrike.
“Women and children were among the people that were brought to the stabilization point, and once again, civilians are paying the price of this war,” Samuel Johann, with the organization, said in a statement earlier this week.
“This Israeli attack on a populated camp in a so-called ‘safe zone’ in Rafah shows the complete disregard for the lives of civilians in Gaza.”
Several top European officials criticized the airstrike, with French President Emmanuel Macron calling for an “immediate ceasefire.” Germany’s Foreign Office echoed those comments on X.
“The images of charred bodies, including children, from the airstrike in Rafah are unbearable,” the German government’s statement said.
“The exact circumstances must be clarified and an IDF investigation launched swiftly. The civilian population in Gaza must urgently be better protected.”
The incident drew condemnation from some U.S. Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“The Israeli bombing of a refugee camp inside a designated safe zone is horrific,” Ms. Warren wrote on X, formerly called Twitter. “Israel has a duty to protect innocent civilians and Palestinians seeking shelter in Rafah have nowhere safe to go.
“Netanyahu’s assault of Rafah must stop. We need an immediate cease-fire.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called on President Joe Biden to terminate aid to Israel.
“The IDF’s attack on a tent camp of innocents in Rafah is an indefensible atrocity,” the Democratic lawmaker wrote on X. “This was done in open defiance of POTUS’s red line and the ICJ’s call for a ceasefire.
“It is long past time for the President to live up to his word and suspend military aid.”
But a White House spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters on May 29 that Israel hasn’t crossed the Biden administration’s red line.
“You’ve all seen the images, they’re heartbreaking, they’re horrific. There should be no innocent life lost here as a result of this conflict,” the National Security Council spokesman said during a White House press briefing.
“Israel, of course, has a right to go after Hamas. And we understand that this strike did kill two senior Hamas terrorists who are directly responsible for attacks against the Israeli people,” he added in his comments to reporters, referring to the terrorist group based in Gaza.
After the airstrike, the United States has not made any policy changes, he said.
“It just happened. The Israelis are going to investigate it. We’re going to be taking great interest in what they find in that investigation, and we'll see where it goes from there,” Mr. Kirby said.
The United States, he added, will not withdraw any military aid to Israel’s military over the airstrike.
Mr. Netanyahu’s comment to the Israeli Parliament, or Knesset, comes about a week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it would be pursuing an arrest warrant for him and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as well as the leaders of Hamas.
The Israeli and U.S. governments have been critical of the ICC’s statement.
This past week, Mr. Netanyahu told CNN in an interview that the ICC warrant “endangers all other democracies. Israel is first, but you’re next. Britain is next. Others are next, too.”
The ICC’s chief prosecutor is “equating the democratically elected leaders of Israel with the terrorist tyrants of Hamas.”
“That’s like saying, ‘Well, I’m issuing arrest warrants for FDR and Churchill but also for Hitler.’ Or ‘I’m going to issue arrest warrants for George W. Bush but also for [Osama] bin Laden.’ That’s absurd,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
Israel has said that it does its best to adhere to the laws of war. Israeli leaders also say they face an enemy that makes no such commitment, embeds itself in civilian areas, and refuses to release Israeli hostages unconditionally.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips

Author

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5

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