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Israel Keeps Changing Storyline on Rafah Massacre as Global Fury Mounts

Israel’s fluctuating narrative regarding the bombing of Tal al Sultan camp for internally displaced Palestinians on May 26 — killing at least 45 people and wounding more than 250 — finds few takers and is fuelling skepticism worldwide.

Israel continues to alter its account of the Rafah massacre with inconsistent narratives amid escalating global outrage over Tel Aviv’s bombing of displaced Palestinian tents on May 26, that left at least 45 people dead and wounded 250 others.

The pictures and videos of dismembered and charred bodies, some of them belonging to babies and minors, have raised an international outcry as tens of thousands of people took to streets in global cities to protest.

Asked to investigate itself by its allies US and Germany, Israel has presented various interpretations of its carnage.

The Israeli occupation forces initially claimed to have conducted “precision strikes” using “precision munitions” based on “accurate intelligence” to target two Hamas members in the area, where displaced Palestinians were seeking refuge.

“The attack was carried out in the Tal al Sultan area in the northwest of Rafah and based on accurate intelligence,” Israeli military claimed.

After it turned out that the Israeli bombs burned Palestinian civilians alive and slashed many children into pieces, sparking global outrage, hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began to twist the Israeli version of the story, saying the bombing was a “tragic mistake.”

“Despite our best efforts not to harm those not involved, unfortunately, a tragic error happened last night. We are investigating the case,” he stated.

Israel’s top military prosecutor, Major General Yifat Tomer, subsequently described the attack on Palestinian civilians as “very grave,” adding that the “details of the incident are still under investigation.”

On the third day of the massacre, Israel’s new narrative emerged. This version sought to shift blame onto Palestinians for their own deaths at the location that Israel had designated as a “humanitarian area.”

Tel Aviv now claims the civilian casualties in makeshift shelters resulted from secondary explosion caused by its strike on Hamas operatives.

Israel’s army spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, said: “[We used] the smallest munition we can put on our planes. Our munition alone would not have ignited a fire of this size. Something else ignited the fire.”

‘We pulled out children who were in pieces’

Palestinian authorities have stood by their account. They say Israel dropped seven bombs, as well as missiles, on the displacement camp, days after the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice, ordered Netanyahu’s regime to halt its attacks on Gaza.

Witnesses told TRT World and other media outlets that when the US-made bombs exploded in the congested tent city, it was inevitable for the plastic canopies to escape fire, which spread quickly, burning alive many trapped Palestinians.

Emergency doctors on the ground also described the carnage — in which babies sleeping in their beds were torn apart, with mangled torsos left in their wake — as one of the most horrific massacres witnessed in Gaza.

Mohammed Abuassa, who rushed to the scene, 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.

Gaza officials said the victims included at least 12 women, eight children and three older adults, with another three bodies burned beyond recognition.

Boeing-made bombs used to kill Palestinians?

Israel has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians — 72 percent of them babies, children, and women — and wounded over 81,000 in its 235-day war on Gaza. Around 10,000 people are feared buried under the debris of bombed buildings.

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 its invasion earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands are packed into squalid tent camps in and around the city.

While the Israeli military has pledged to investigate into its own actions, it has found little or no takers with many considering the attempts nothing but a brazen attempt to obscure the truth in the face of growing global outrage.

The munition in question appears to carry a lethal impact, as indicated by media reports.

Al Jazeera’s Sanad Verification Agency managed to obtain images of fragments believed to be from the weaponry used in the attack.

The photos show the tail of a GBU-39/B bomb, manufactured by Boeing. The GBU-39/B includes a jet engine from the M26 unguided missile, the agency said.

According to international laws of armed conflict, any military action posing a significant risk to civilian life must be heavily justified.

The Netanyahu regime’s stance — that Rafah is Hamas’ last remaining base of operations — appears to many as a pretext to continue the war in Gaza for political gains.

As the global outcry intensifies, pressure is mounting on Israel to provide a credible explanation of the Rafah massacre. So far Israel has put forth numerous accounts of its carnage — all in layers of ambiguity.

US says Israel hasn’t breached Biden’s ‘red line’ despite Rafah massacre

Israel has not violated President Joe Biden’s “red line” for withholding future offensive arms transfers because it has not, and it appears to Washington that Tel Aviv will not launch a full-scale ground invasion into southern Gaza’s Rafah city, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby on Tuesday condemned the killing of dozens of civilians as “heartbreaking” and “horrific” from an Israeli air strike in Rafah on the weekend that left nearly 50 Palestinians dead and 250 wounded, but said US is not planning any policy changes as a result of the Israeli actions.

“Everything that we can see tells us that they are not moving into a major ground operation in population centers in the center of Rafah,” Kirby said, adding “we certainly condemn the loss of life here.”

He added that the US was monitoring the results of Tel Aviv’s investigation into the what Israeli government said was a “precision strike”.

Shifting narratives from Tel Aviv on the massacre has sparked interest.

Initially, Israeli occupation forces said they carried out “precision strikes” with “precision munitions” on Hamas members in Rafah where displaced Palestinians were taking refuge. After global condemnations, Israeli hawkish PM Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “tragic mistake.” Now, Israel claims the civilian killings were the result of a secondary explosion after its strike on two Hamas operatives.

“We understand that this strike did kill two senior Hamas heads who are directly responsible for attacks,” Kirby said, appearing to give credit to new Israeli version of the story. “We’ve also said many times Israel must take every precaution possible to do more to protect innocent life.”

The pictures and videos of dismembered and charred bodies, some of them belonging to babies, raised an international hue and cry as tens of thousands of people took to streets in Western cities to protest.

US has not paused arms shipments to Israel

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, meanwhile, told reporters that Israel’s weeks-old invasion in Rafah was still on a “far different” scale than the assaults Israeli military waged on other cities in Gaza earlier in the seven-month war.

Miller said he had no direct knowledge of reported accounts from witnesses on the ground on Tuesday that Israeli tanks had entered the centre of Gaza, and noted Israel had denied responsibility for a new Israeli strike outside of Rafah on Tuesday that killed dozens.

Israeli shelling and air strikes killed at least 37 people, most of them sheltering in tents, outside of Rafah overnight and on Tuesday — pummeling the same area where Israeli carried out Sunday’s massacre.

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said she did not know whether it was a US-provided weapon that was used in the deadly Sunday strike that killed the dozens of civilians at a displacement camp.

“I have to refer you to the Israelis to speak to that,” Singh said.

Singh said the US has not paused shipments to Israel in the wake of the strike. “Security assistance continues to flow.”

TRT WORLDMost of those fleeing Rafah have poured into a “humanitarian zone” that is centered on al Mawasi, a largely barren strip of coastal land.

Genocidal war

Israel has killed at least 36,096 Palestinians — including babies, children, and women — and wounded 81,136 in its 235-day war on Gaza, while some 10,000+ people are feared buried under the debris of bombed homes.

Israel’s bombardment in Rafah has caused more than one million Palestinians to flee, most of whom had already been displaced in the war waged by Israel. They now seek refuge in squalid tent camps and other war-ravaged areas, where they lack shelter, food, water and other essentials for survival, the UN says.

Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the agency known as UNRWA, told a UN press conference on Tuesday that the agency’s teams on the ground say heavy Israeli bombardments again took place overnight including in the area north of Rafah home to the UN main offices as well as UNRWA’s offices. Most of its staff didn’t make it to work and were “packing and moving,” she said.

Israel has waged a brutal invasion on Gaza since Hamas’ October 7 blitz on Israeli military and settlements that were once Arab villages and farms.

Hamas says its raid that surprised its arch-enemy was orchestrated in response to Israeli attacks on Al Aqsa Mosque, illegal settler violence in occupied West Bank and to put Palestine question “back on the table.”

In an assault of startling breadth, Hamas gunmen rolled into as many as 22 locations outside Gaza, including towns and other communities as far as 24 kilometres from the Gaza fence.

At some places they are said to have gunned down many soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster response.

The hours-long attack and Israeli military’s haphazard response resulted in the killing of more than 1,130 people, Israeli officials and local media say.

Palestinian fighters took more than 250 hostages and presently 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who the Israeli army says are dead, some of them killed in indiscriminate Israeli strikes.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which has ordered Tel Aviv to ensure that its forces do not commit acts of genocide and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in the enclave.

In its latest order, breached by Tel Aviv multiple times, the court ruled that Israel should: “Immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Courtesy: TRTWORLD and Agencies

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