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Israel Gaza: Operation in Rafah doesn’t cross US red lines – White House

  • Author, Christy Cooney
  • Role, BBC News

The United States does not believe Israel has launched a full-scale invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, White House spokesman John Kirby said.

He spoke hours after Israeli forces reached the center of the city and reportedly seized a strategically important hill overlooking the nearby border with Egypt.

US President Joe Biden has previously said a full-scale invasion in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are still believed to be sheltering, would cross a red line.

Mr. Kirby was also asked about an Israeli airstrike and resulting fire that killed at least 45 Palestinians on Sunday at a tent camp for displaced people.

Israel said it believed the fire may have been caused by the explosion of weapons stored nearby by Hamas.

Mr Kirby told reporters that images of Sunday’s strike, which killed mainly women, children and the elderly, were “heartbreaking” and “horrific”.

“No innocent life should be lost here because of this conflict,” he added.

But he acknowledged that Israel was investigating the incident and said he had “no policy changes to discuss” following the recent events in Rafah.

“We still don’t think a major ground operation is justified…and we haven’t seen that yet,” he said.

Asked why the current operation did not meet the definition of a full-scale invasion, Mr. Kirby insisted that the president was not “moving the stick.”

“We didn’t see them crash into Rafah,” he said.

“We haven’t seen them intervene with large units, large numbers of soldiers, in columns and formations, in some sort of coordinated maneuver against multiple ground targets.”

President Biden said earlier this month that some arms deliveries to Israel would be interrupted in the event of a major ground operation in Rafah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday’s strike a “tragic accident” while pledging to continue the operation in Rafah.

The Israeli military said the strike targeted and killed two senior Hamas officials.

On Tuesday, it said its troops were continuing their activities against “terrorist targets” in Rafah, three weeks after launching the ground operation there.

Witnesses said Israeli tanks were stationed at al-Awda roundabout, considered a key landmark.

The city’s western neighborhoods were subjected to intense shelling overnight from Monday to Tuesday, residents said.

The Israeli army on Tuesday denied reports that its tank shells hit another tent camp in al-Mawasi, on the coast west of Rafah, which local authorities said killed at least 21 people .

Videos of the incident posted on social media and analyzed by BBC Verify showed several people seriously injured.

There were no clear signs of an explosion zone or crater, making it impossible to determine the cause of the incident. The location – verified by surrounding buildings – is between Rafah and al-Mawasi, and is south of the Israeli military’s designated humanitarian zone.

Israel has insisted that victory in its seven-month war against Hamas in Gaza was impossible without the capture of Rafah and rejected warnings that it could have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

According to the UN, around a million people have now fled the fighting in Rafah, but several hundred thousand others could still find refuge there.

The Israel Defense Forces on May 6 launched what it called “targeted” ground operations against Hamas fighters and infrastructure in eastern Rafah.

Since then, tanks and troops have gradually penetrated the built-up areas of the east and center while moving north along the 13-kilometer border with Egypt.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which around 1,200 people were killed and another 252 taken hostage.

Since then, at least 36,090 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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News Source : www.bbc.com

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