IDF says it did not strike tents in Rafah and used small missile in airstrike

Israel says the fire could not have come about as a direct result from the low missile payload used during the strike


IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari (Credit: YouTube)

The IDF has claimed that its munitions alone could not have caused a fire that erupted in Rafah, killing dozens of Palestinians.

An initial assessment following the targeted strike on Sunday night points to the fire being caused by ammunition stockpiles being unexpectedly stored in the area, said an IDF spokesman.

The exact cause of the fire, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday, is being investigated by the Fact-Finding and Assessment (FFA) Mechanism, an independent body that collates information and investigates circumstances surrounding the facts of military incidents.

The targets of Sunday night’s airstrike, Yassin Rabia and Khaled Nagar, were two senior Hamas terrorists responsible, the IDF said, for orchestrating and executing terror attacks that killed Israelis, and were “actively commanding operations that could have killed even more,”

The strike occurred on a compound used by Hamas in Rafah, using precise intelligence that indicated the pair were meeting inside the specific structure the IDF targeted.

“Their deaths saved lives,” Hagari said during a press conference, “sadly, following the strike, due to unforeseen circumstances, a fire ignited, tragically taking the lives of Gaza civilians nearby."

Thousands of non-combatants were said to be taking shelter in an area close by, known as Tel al-Sultan, having fled from the east of the city where the IDF issued evacuation orders.

“Despite our efforts to minimise civilian casualties during the strike, the fire that broke out was unexpected and unintended. This is a devastating incident which we did not expect,” Hagari said.

Using satellite imagery, Hagari explained that the IDF targeted “a closed structure away from [the] tent area,” and, contrary to reports, explained that the strike occurred 1.7km outside the designated humanitarian area Israel established.

Hamas claimed immediately after the fire that the IDF deliberately targeted the tent area.

A birds-eye image of the strike location was displayed which showed the targeted building housing terrorists 180 metres away from the closest shelters.

A clip from the IDF’s aerial surveillance, which was filming the area prior to the strike in order to minimise civilian harm, was also shown.

Two munitions were used, each carrying 17 kilos of explosive material, suited for targeted airstrikes of this kind.

“Following this strike, a large fire ignited for reasons which are still being investigated. Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” Hagari claimed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset on Monday that “a tragic accident” took place during the Rafah strike, and announced an investigation was underway.

The investigation opened by the IDF “seeks to determine what may have caused such a large fire to ignite. We are looking into all possibilities, including the option that weapons stored in a compound next to our target, which we did not know of, may have ignited as a result of the strike.”

Hagari assures the investigation will be “swift, comprehensive, and transparent”.

“Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza. Which is why we convey deep sorrow for this tragic loss of life,” he said.

Again using satellite imagery, Hagari showed that Hamas has been operating from the area since at least October 7, when they launched rockets at Israel during the terror attack.

The IDF is also assessing footage taken by Gazans themselves from the night and posted to social media, which “appear to show secondary explosions, indicating that there may have been weapons in the area”.

Israeli signals intelligence intercepted phone calls that “reinforce” this hypothesis, the IDF said.

The recording of one such phone call was exhibited, which appears to show one speaker say: “Yes, this is an ammunition warehouse. I tell you it exploded (mumbling). I mean the Jewish bombing wasn’t strong, it was a small missile, because it didn’t create a large hole… and afterwards, a lot of secondary explosions.”

Hagari said: “Even if we do find the cause of the fire that erupted, it won’t make this situation any less tragic. We took several steps prior to the strike to avoid civilian casualties, aerial surveillance from above, using specific munitions aimed at minimising collateral damage, delaying the attack to further assess expected civilian presence, and other means.”

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