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US presses for probe, says ground operation in Rafah not warranted

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WASHINGTON: Urging Israel to conduct a thorough investigation into a tent city bombing and uphold its obligations under international humanitarian law, the US on Tuesday said it didn’t believe a major ground operation in Rafah was warranted.

White House spokesperson John Kirby maintained that the Israeli strike that killed dozens of Palestinians in Rafah did not cross a “red line” set by President Joe Biden.

“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,” he told reporters at a White House briefing.

“As a result of this strike on Sunday I have no policy changes to speak to,” he added. “It just happened. 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.”

Kirby told reporters Tuesday that there was a real danger that Israel could become further isolated from the international community with the manner in which it is conducting operations.

“So this is of concern, clearly, because it’s not in Israel’s best interest,” Kirby said. “And it’s not in our best interest for Israel to become increasingly isolated on the world stage.”

Meanwhile, in his first official briefing since the Rafah attack and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that called on Israel to halt its offensive in the area, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller faced a barrage of questions concerning both issues.

Some reporters referred to the charred bodies discovered in the Palestinian encampment in Rafah. Miller, however, insisted on waiting for the results of a comprehensive investigation before offering further comments.

“Those images were heartbreaking, and I know the pain those families are suffering through must be unimaginable, especially for those who lost children and family members for a repeated number of times.”

Miller then reiterated the US position that “Israel has a right to go after the Hamas terrorists responsible for the cold-blooded murder of civilians”, but also reminded Israel of its “obligation to do everything possible to minimize civilian harm as it carries out its operations.”

He said that as soon as the US saw the reports of the Rafah incident, “we reached out to the government of Israel to express our deep concern over what happened, asked for more information and urged them to undertake a full investigation.”

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024


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