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Netanyahu acknowledges a “tragic mistake” in the Israeli attack on Rafah, which killed dozens of people



Netanyahu acknowledges a “tragic mistake” in the Israeli attack on Rafah, which killed dozens of people

TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged a “tragic mistake” after an Israeli strike killed dozens of people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

In a speech to parliament on Monday, he said Israel was investigating the attack the night before.

Israel faced a new condemnation for strikes on Monday over the southern Gaza city of Rafah At least 45 Palestinians were killed, including displaced people living in tents engulfed by fire, according to local health officials.

Israel has faced increasing international criticism of its country war with Hamas, with even some of its closest allies, most notably the United States, expressing outrage over the civilian deaths. Israel continues to insist it adheres to international law even as it faces scrutiny in the world’s highest courts, one of which demanded last week that it stop the offensive in Rafah.

Israel said it was investigating the civilian deaths after it struck a Hamas facility and killed two senior militants. Sunday night’s attack, which appeared to be one of the deadliest of the war, helped push the total Palestinian death toll in the war above 36,000, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and non-fighters in its count. -warriors.

“We pulled out people who were in an unbearable condition,” said Mohammed Abuassa, who rushed to the scene in the northwestern Tel al-Sultan neighborhood. “We pulled out kids who were in pieces. We took out young people and old people. The fire in the camp was unreal.”

Gaza’s health ministry said about half of the dead were women, children and older adults. On Monday, barefoot children dug into the blackened rubble as the search continued.

France, a close European ally of Israel, said it was “outraged” by the violence.

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X.

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 again since Israel launched a so-called limited incursion there earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands are crammed into squalid tent camps in and around the city.

In a separate development, the Egyptian army said one of its soldiers was shot dead during a firefight in the Rafah area, without providing further details. Israel said it was in contact with Egyptian authorities, and both sides said they were investigating.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel must destroy what he calls the last remaining battalions of Hamas in Rafah. The militant group launched a barrage of rockets from the city towards Israel’s densely populated center on Sunday, setting off air raid sirens but causing no injuries.

Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said bombings like the one in Rafah would have long-lasting consequences for Israel.

“Israel is spreading hatred with this choice, rooting hatred that will also involve their children and grandchildren. I would have preferred a different decision,” he told Italian news channel SKY TG24.

Qatar, a key mediator between Israel and Hamas in efforts to broker a ceasefire and the release of Hamas hostages, said the strikes could “complicate” the talks. The negotiations, which appear to be restarting, have repeatedly failed due to Hamas’s demands. for a lasting ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, conditions that Israeli leaders have publicly rejected.

Neighboring countries Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago, also condemned the attacks in Rafah. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry described the attack on Tel al-Sultan as a “new and flagrant violation of the rules of international humanitarian law.” The Jordanian Foreign Ministry called it a “war crime.”

The Israeli army’s top legal official said authorities were investigating the attacks and that the army regretted the loss of civilian lives. Military Advocate General Major General Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi said such incidents occur “in a war of such scale and intensity.”

Speaking at an Israeli lawyers’ conference, Tomer-Yerushalmi said Israel has launched 70 criminal investigations into incidents that have raised suspicions of violations of international law, including the deaths of civilians, conditions at a detention center holding suspected Palestinian militants and the death of some prisoners. in Israeli custody. She said incidents of “violence, property crimes and looting” were also being investigated.

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

Israel has denied genocide charges brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Last week the The court ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah, a ruling the country cannot enforce.