Israeli Bomb May Have Set Off Secondary Blasts that Harmed Civilians in Rafah: IDF Spokesman

Israeli Bomb May Have Set Off Secondary Blasts that Harmed Civilians in Rafah: IDF Spokesman
Fire rages following an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in this still picture taken from a video, on May 26, 2024. (Reuters TV via Reuters)

An Israeli military spokesman has gone public with an active theory that it was secondary explosions, not the initial Israeli bomb blast, that resulted in civilian injuries and deaths following a strike in Rafah on Sunday night.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described civilian deaths following a May 26 Israeli airstrike in Rafah as a “tragic mistake” and vowed the Israeli government would investigate the incident further. Israeli officials are now actively reviewing the strike.

Addressing members of the press on Tuesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman and Rear Adml. Daniel Hagari indicated one theory Israeli authorities are pursuing is that the Israeli strike set off a secondary source of explosive or flammable material located near the intended Israeli target and that it was this material and not an Israeli bomb that set off deadly explosions and fires that swept through a nearby tent encampment with civilians.

Rear Adml. Hagari reiterated the Israeli military’s claims that the Sunday strike “eliminated senior Hamas terrorists in a targeted strike” and insisted the structure that Israeli aircraft targeted was only occupied by Hamas terrorist members and that the strike relied on precise intelligence assessments.

“Despite our efforts to minimize civilian casualties during the strike the fire that broke out was unexpected and unintended,” the Israeli military spokesman continued.

Rear Adml. Hagari said the munition used in the Sunday strike contained about 17 kilograms (37 pounds) of explosives and “could not have ignited” a fire of the size seen after the Sunday strike. He said Israeli forces are looking into all possibilities as to what caused such widespread destruction, “including the option that weapons stored in a compound next to our target, which we did not know of, may have ignited as a result of the strike.”

Reiterating the basis for the Israeli strike and its precision, the military spokesman presented an image showing what he said was a suspected rocket launcher located 43 meters from the structure an Israeli aircraft struck in the May 26 sortie.

“We are also assessing footage documented by Gazans on the night of the strike, posted on social media, which appear to show secondary explosions indicating that there may have been weapons in the area,” Rear Adml. Hagari continued.

The Israeli military spokesman also presented an audio clip in Arabic, which the Israeli military purports is of two Gazans discussing the Sunday strike. The Arabic audio is accompanied by a proposed English caption of the conversation. According to these English captions, one individual describes how the Israeli military launched a small bomb that didn’t create a large hole “and afterward a lot of secondary explosions.” The source of this audio clip could not immediately be independently verified.

While Rear Adml. Hagari insisted the Israeli munition launched on Sunday couldn’t have caused all the destruction seen that night and put forth the theory that the initial Israeli airstrike set off secondary explosions, he said the Israeli side is still investigating the May 26 strike and hasn’t reached a final determination.

“Even when we do find the cause of the fire that erupted, it won’t make this situation any less tragic,” he said.

While the Israeli government has insisted civilian casualties from the Sunday strike were accidental and may have even been caused by the ignition of a previously unknown weapons cache, the strike did come just two days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) ordered the Israeli military to immediately halt its military operations in the area of the Rafah Governorate.

Mr. Netanyahu has expressed some condolences for the civilian loss of life following the May 26 strike but also said on Monday that his government would not bow to domestic or international pressure to let up in the pursuit of his wartime goal to eliminate Hamas.

“I will not yield or surrender. I will not end the war before achieving all our goals,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

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