update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

White House: No policy change after Rafah strike

The Biden administration will take "great interest" in the findings of Israel's investigation into the tragic incident, said National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks to reporters at the White House, Oct. 3, 2023. Photo by Oliver Contreras/White House.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks to reporters at the White House, Oct. 3, 2023. Photo by Oliver Contreras/White House.

The Biden administration has made no policy changes in the wake of Israel’s airstrike in Rafah on Sunday night, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press briefing, Kirby noted that the investigation into the incident was ongoing.

“As a result of this strike on Sunday, I have no policy changes to speak to. It just happened,” Kirby told reporters. “The Israelis are going to investigate it. We’re going to be taking great interest in what they find in that investigation. And we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Two senior Hamas terrorists responsible for Judea and Samaria terror operations were killed in the precision strike on a compound in Tal as-Sultan in northwest Rafah. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, dozens of noncombatants were killed and wounded.

Israeli officials reportedly told the Biden administration that shrapnel may have ignited a fuel tank, starting a fire that engulfed tents housing displaced Gazans.

On Tuesday afternoon, IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters that “our munition alone could not have ignited a fire this size. … We used the smallest munition that our jets can use.

“The fire that broke out was unexpected and unintended. This was a devastating incident that we did not expect. We’re investigating what caused this fire,” Hagari said, stressing that the strike targeted a “closed” terrorist structure almost a mile from the Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone.

“There may have been weapons in the area. Our signals intelligence intercepted phone calls reinforcing this possibility that weapons stored in a nearby compound caught fire,” said Hagari.

He assured that the “investigation will be swift, comprehensive and transparent. Our war is against Hamas, not the people of Gaza. This is why we convey deep sorrow over this loss of life.”

U.S.-made munitions used

The precision weapon used by Israel in the Rafah strike was designed and manufactured in the United States, according to investigations by CNN and The New York Times, the results of which were published on Wednesday.

Both news outlets analyzed video footage of munition debris from the scene of the attack, determining that the fragments belonged to a GBU-39 bomb, a 250-pound precision-guided glide bomb made by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, which carries around 37 pounds of AFX-757 high explosive.

According to the Times, U.S. officials have been urging Israel to increase use of the GBU-39 bombs in Gaza because it can reduce civilian casualties, being more precise and better adapted to urban environments than larger bombs such as the 2,000-pound bombs that Israel also uses but that President Joe Biden said earlier this month he was pausing delivery of.

“The Israelis have said they used 37-pound bombs,” Kirby said at Tuesday’s briefing. “If it is in fact what they used, it is certainly indicative of an effort to be discreet and targeted and precise.”

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