Skip to content

US Says Latest Rafah Deaths Won’t Change Israel Policy, Military Aid


By REUTERS – The Biden administration said on Tuesday it was closely monitoring the probe into a deadly Israeli airstrike it called tragic, but that the recent deaths in Rafah didn’t constitute a major ground operation there that crosses any U.S. red lines.

“The Israelis have said this is a tragic mistake,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House, when asked about whether the events over the weekend qualified as the type of “death and destruction” U.S. officials have warned could result in the withholding of more aid to Israel.

The U.S. doesn’t have “a measuring stick here or a quota,” Kirby said.

“We’ve also said we don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah that would really make it hard for the Israelis to go after Hamas without causing extensive damage and potentially a large number of deaths. We have not seen that yet,” he said, noting that Israel’s operations were mostly in a corridor on the outskirts of Rafah.

Asked if he was saying the recent ground operations in Rafah would not prompt a U.S. withdrawal of more military aid, Kirby said “I believe that’s what I’ve been saying here.”

Recent deaths in Rafah have tested President Joe Biden’s promise to withhold weapons from Israel if the U.S. ally made a major invasion of Rafah that put displaced persons there at risk.

Speaking at a ceremonial event in Washington, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said, “The word tragic doesn’t even begin to describe” an Israeli airstrike on Sunday that triggered a fire in a tent camp in the Gaza city of Rafah, killing 45 Palestinian.

Harris’s remark, in response to a reporter’s question, also followed what Gaza health authorities described as Israeli tank shelling of a tent camp in an evacuation area west of Rafah that killed at least 21 people on Tuesday.

Israel said that “something unfortunately went tragically wrong” in Sunday’s airstrike while its military denied shelling the tent camp on Tuesday. Israel said it had targeted two senior Hamas operatives in Sunday’s operation and had not intended to cause civilian casualties.