Netanyahu Defiant, Vows to Continue Despite Latest Deadly Civilian Attacks

( Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains opposed to calls from activists and other political leaders to scale down military operations in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, following a mass civilian casualty incident. On May 26, an Israeli strike and subsequent blaze in Rafah killed approximately 45 people at a camp for displaced Palestinians.

Netanyahu called the incident a “tragic mistake” but vowed to continue military operations in Rafah. Netanyahu said that he does not intend to end the conflict until Israel achieves every one of its goals.

Despite the civilian casualties, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) characterized the action as a “precise strike” on a compound containing members of Palestinian militant group Hamas. Two high-ranking Hamas leaders were killed as a result of the strike, the IDF said.

Legal officials in the Israeli military said that they were examining the incident, adding that the military regrets the civilian casualties. Such incidents occur in wars like the one between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Military Advocate General Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi said.

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby called images from the site of the strike horrific and heartbreaking. However, the incident has yet to prompt policy changes from the Biden administration, which continues to oppose a large-scale military operation in Rafah, Kirby said.

US President Joe Biden has threatened to suspend the flow of certain weapons to Israel if it proceeds with a large-scale operation in Rafah. The White House does not believe that Israel has launched a large-scale operation in Rafah, despite the IDF beginning some operations in the city, Kirby said.

Israeli soldiers are gaining a foothold in Rafah, including placing tanks in the city center, even though a top United Nations court ordered Israel to cease operations there. Israeli military operations in Rafah—located on the border of the Gaza Strip and Egypt—also risk escalating tensions with Egypt.

Israeli and Egyptian troops clashed along the border, resulting in the death of at least one Egyptian soldier. Cairo has said that its peace treaty with Israel could be undermined by the spread of conflict across the border.

Although Israel maintains its right to self-defense in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack on the country, international pressure to limit its operations continues to mount, particularly due to the risk of such civilian casualty incidents and regional escalation.

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