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Netanyahu: Rafah Strike 'Tragic Mishap'05/28 06:11

   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that a "tragic mishap" was 
made in an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah that set fire to a 
camp housing displaced Palestinians and, according to local officials, killed 
at least 45 people.

   TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that 
a "tragic mishap" was made in an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of 
Rafah that set fire to a camp housing displaced Palestinians and, according to 
local officials, killed at least 45 people.

   The strike only added to the surging international criticism Israel has 
faced over its war with Hamas, with even its closest allies expressing outrage 
at civilian deaths. Israel insists it adheres to international law even as it 
faces scrutiny in the world's top courts, one of which last week demanded that 
it halt the offensive in Rafah.

   Netanyahu did not elaborate on the error. Israel's military initially said 
it had carried out a precise airstrike on a Hamas compound, killing two senior 
militants. As details of the strike and fire emerged, the military said it had 
opened an investigation into the deaths of civilians.

   Sunday night's attack, which appeared to be one of the war's deadliest, 
helped push the overall Palestinian death toll in the war above 36,000, 
according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between 
fighters and noncombatants in its tally.

   "Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night there 
was a tragic mishap," 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."

   Mohammed Abuassa, who rushed to the scene in the northwestern neighborhood 
of Tel al-Sultan, said rescuers "pulled out people who were in an unbearable 
state."

   "We pulled out children who were in pieces. We pulled out young and elderly 
people. The fire in the camp was unreal," he said.

   At least 45 people were killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and 
the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service. The ministry said the dead 
included at least 12 women, eight children and three older adults, with another 
three bodies burned beyond recognition.

   In a separate development, Egypt's military said one of its soldiers was 
shot dead during an exchange of fire in the Rafah area, without providing 
further details. Israel said it was in contact with Egyptian authorities, and 
both sides said they were investigating.

   An initial investigation found that the soldier had responded to an exchange 
of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, Egypt's state-owned 
Qahera TV reported. Egypt has warned that Israel's incursion in Rafah could 
threaten the two countries' decades-old peace treaty.

   The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting for Tuesday 
afternoon on the situation in Rafah at the request of Algeria, the Arab 
representative on the council, two council diplomats told The Associated Press 
ahead of an official announcement.

   Rafah, the southernmost Gaza city on the border with Egypt, had housed more 
than a million people -- about half of Gaza's population -- displaced from 
other parts of the territory. Most have fled once again since Israel launched 
what it called a limited incursion there earlier this month. Hundreds of 
thousands are packed into squalid tent camps in and around the city.

   Elsewhere in Rafah, the director of the Kuwait Hospital, one of the city's 
last functioning medical centers, said it was shutting down and that staff 
members were relocating to a field hospital. Dr. Suhaib al-Hamas said the 
decision was made after a strike killed two health workers Monday at the 
entrance to the hospital.

   Netanyahu says Israel must destroy what he says are Hamas' last remaining 
battalions in Rafah. The militant group launched a barrage of rockets Sunday 
from the city toward heavily populated central Israel, setting off air raid 
sirens but causing no injuries.

   The strike on Rafah brought a new wave of condemnation, even from Israel's 
strongest supporters.

   The U.S. National Security Council said in a statement that the "devastating 
images" from the strike on Rafah were "heartbreaking." It said the U.S. was 
working with the Israeli military and others to assess what happened.

   French President Emmanuel Macron was more blunt, saying "these operations 
must stop" in a post on X. "There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian 
civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate 
ceasefire," he wrote.

   The Foreign Office of Germany, which has been a staunch supporter of Israel 
for decades, said "the images of charred bodies, including children, from the 
airstrike in Rafah are unbearable."

   "The exact circumstances must be clarified, and the investigation announced 
by the Israeli army must now come quickly," the ministry added. "The civilian 
population must finally be better protected."

   Qatar, a key mediator in attempts to secure a cease-fire and the release of 
hostages held by Hamas, said the Rafah strike could "complicate" talks, 
Negotiations, which appear to be restarting, have faltered repeatedly over 
Hamas' demand for a lasting truce and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, terms 
Israeli leaders have publicly rejected.

   The Israeli military's top legal official, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, 
said authorities were examining the strike in Rafah and that the military 
regrets the loss of civilian life.

   Speaking to an Israeli lawyers' conference, Tomer-Yerushalmi said Israel has 
launched 70 criminal investigations into possible violations of international 
law, including the deaths of civilians, the conditions at a detention facility 
holding suspected militants and the deaths of some inmates in Israeli custody. 
She said incidents of property crimes and looting were also being examined.

   Israel has long maintained it has an independent judiciary capable of 
investigating and prosecuting abuses. But rights groups say Israeli authorities 
routinely fail to fully investigate violence against Palestinians and that even 
when soldiers are held accountable, the punishment is usually light.

   Israel has denied allegations of genocide brought against it by South Africa 
at the International Court of Justice. Last week, the court ordered Israel to 
halt its Rafah offensive, a ruling it has no power to enforce.

   Separately, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is 
seeking arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav 
Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders, over alleged crimes linked to the war. 
The ICC only intervenes when it concludes that the state in question is unable 
or unwilling to properly prosecute such crimes.

   Israel says 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.

   Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which 
Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized 
some 250 hostages. Hamas still holds about 100 hostages and the remains of 
around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a cease-fire last 
year.

   Around 80% of Gaza's 2.3 million people have fled their homes. Severe hunger 
is widespread, and U.N. officials say parts of the territory are experiencing 
famine.

 
 
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