US says Israel not conducting full-scale Rafah operation


The United States maintains that there has not been a significant ground invasion by the Israeli military into Rafah, reiterated by administration officials on Tuesday.

This latest evaluation, initially disclosed by Pentagon deputy spokeswoman Sabrina Singh and later emphasized by National Security Council coordinator John Kirby, was shared a few days after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians.

“We still don’t believe that a major ground operation in Rafah is warranted. We still don’t want to see the Israelis, as we say, smash into Rafah with large units over large pieces of territory. We still believe that and we haven’t seen that at this point,” Kirby stated. “As a result of this strike on Sunday, I have no policy changes to speak to.”

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden cautioned that he would cease offensive weapons sales to Israel if it engaged in actions in Rafah opposed by the U.S., such as a comprehensive ground campaign. Kirby outlined such a campaign as involving “thousands and thousands of troops moving in a maneuvered, concentrated, coordinated way. It’s a variety of targets on the ground.”

Israel has conducted several airstrikes in Rafah recently. The weekend strike, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), led to a secondary explosion and fire that, according to Gaza officials, killed about 45 people and injured over 200 others.

“The strike was conducted using two munitions with small warheads suited for this targeted strike. We are talking about munitions with 17 kilograms of explosive material,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari explained. He added, “Following this strike, a large fire ignited for reasons still being investigated. Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the strike as a “tragic mistake.” The IDF is currently investigating the incident.

The U.S. has been trying for months to dissuade Israel from launching a full-scale military operation in Rafah due to the over 1 million Palestinians who sought refuge there during the war. The U.S. and other international leaders have emphasized that Israel’s operations could result in large numbers of civilian casualties if not properly safeguarded.

Kirby observed that the strike broadly aligns with how the U.S. prefers Israel to target Hamas in Rafah, given the apparent use of small, precision bombs, but not including the secondary explosion.

“This one had tragic consequences, but it was in the use of munitions that they said they used in the targets they were going after, not unlike and not out of character of the other airstrikes they have participated in, in Rafah in recent days and weeks,” Kirby said. “So it wasn’t out of that scope, but obviously it had a different outcome here, which is incredibly tragic.”

Mike Brest
Mike Brest
Defense Reporter. Prior to joining the defense beat, he spent two years covering breaking news, and he worked at the Daily Caller in a similar capacity before that. Mike graduated from American University and is originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia.

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