Biden administration won’t confirm reports Israel used US weapons in Rafah strike

The Biden administration on Wednesday refused to confirm Israel used U.S. bombs in the deadly strike over the weekend that killed dozens of displaced Palestinians at a camp in Rafah.

CNN first reported that the remains of the American produced GBU-39 small diameter bomb (SDB) were found at the scene, according to four explosive weapons experts who reviewed video shared on social media.

Weapons experts and visual evidence The New York Times also reviewed reached the same conclusion that the bombs were GBU-39s, which are designed and sold in the United States.

“We’re not going to speak to individual payload loadouts on individual Israeli aircraft,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday. “The [Israeli military] should speak to their conduct of this particular operation, and that would include … discussion of what was used.”

At least 45 people were killed and more than 240 others wounded after the Israeli military used aircraft to strike the outskirts of Rafah, causing a fire to break out. The majority of those killed were women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Kirby added that Israel has already said publicly it used precision guided munitions with a payload of about 37 pounds, which, if true, “would certainly indicate a desire to be more deliberate and more precise in their targeting.”

And asked Tuesday about the munitions used in the Rafah strike, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters, “I do not know what type of munition was used in that airstrike. I’d have to refer you to the Israelis to speak to that.”

U.S. officials have been pushing Israel to use more precise bombs with a smaller payload, or explosion, which they say claim can reduce civilian casualties.

The Israeli military has also declined to specify the type of bomb used, though an Israeli military spokesperson told The Hill the armament was “an accurate and specific type of munition that carries a low amount of explosives.”

He added that the Israeli military is “getting precise types of munitions from allies which they know is a very accurate weapon. And this is why we want to use them as much as possible to mitigate casualties as much as possible.”

Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said at a press conference Tuesday that the strike was conducted “using two munitions with small warheads” containing 17 kilograms of explosive material, “the smallest munition that our jets can use.”

Palestinian journalist Alam Sadeq also filmed munition fragments found in the camp with were stamped with a unique identifier code the Times traced back to Colorado aerospace manufacturer Woodward, which supplies parts for bombs including the GBU-39.

The United States is Israel’s biggest arms supplier, with a recent foreign aid package that included $26 billion for the Israel-Hamas conflict — including $15 billion in lethal assistance for the Israeli military — signed by President Biden last month.

The support from Washington has continued even as international calls grow for Biden to put pressure on Israel to quell Palestinian civilian deaths in the brutal war in Gaza that has killed roughly 36,000 people, the majority women and children.

In video shot by witnesses after the most recent overnight attack in Rafah, images can be seen of people suffering amid the flames, including one man holding up the body of a decapitated toddler.

But Hagari said the military was targeting two Hamas leaders, who he said were killed in the strike. He said forces did not expect the bombs to harm civilians, even though they were dropped close to tents housing displaced Palestinians.

An investigation has since been opened by the Israeli military, as they insist the fires might have been started by a secondary explosion.

“We do not have any more granularity today than we did yesterday about what caused the explosion and fire that that killed those innocent Palestinians in the tent compound,” Kirby said. “We have been in touch with our Israeli counterparts again, overnight and today, and we’re trying to get as much information as we can.”

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