US officials won’t admit American-made bombs used in Rafah tent camp strike that killed 45

Deadly blaze in Rafah camp ignited after airstrike using US-made GBU-39 bombs, analysts say

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Wednesday 29 May 2024 21:14 BST
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Pentagon says it can't confirm if US bomb was used in Rafah airstrike

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Senior White House officials are refusing to say whether American-made bombs were used in a deadly airstrike in Gaza this week - despite an investigation which appeared to confirm remnants of US munitions at the scene.

An Israeli airstrike on a tent camp for the displaced in Rafah killed 45 people on Sunday including women and children, and left at least 200 injured, the Gaza health ministry reported.

The attack on the city, where millions of Palestinians have taken refuge during the Israel-Hamas war, caused international outrage. But the US said that the deadly strike did not constitute a breach of the “red line” set by President Joe Biden that would cause him to reconsider his support for Israel.

Fragments of US-built weapons are shown in this screen grab of video footage from Rafah, according to video footage from the scene
Fragments of US-built weapons are shown in this screen grab of video footage from Rafah, according to video footage from the scene (hamz0831/Telegram/)

Analysis published by CNN on Wednesday revealed video footage from the scene of the Rafah strike that showed fragments of munitions with printed serial numbers. It appeared to be a GBU-39, a small-diameter bomb made by Boeing, according to the report.

Trevor Ball, a former US Army explosives expert, told CNN that he had seen a “distinct” piece of wreckage identifiable as a warhead section and an “extremely unique” part which he called the “guidance and wing section” of the bomb.

“I saw the tail actuation section and instantly knew it was one of the SDB/GBU-39 variants,” Mr Ball said. The US is Israel’s largest arms supplier.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demurred when asked whether US weapons were used in the Rafah tent camp strike.

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024
Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024 (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“We have to see what the investigation shows,” he said, while on a trip to Moldova.

Mr Blinken described the attack as “horrific” but added that, even if it is assumed that US-made weapons were used, it is evidence that it was a “limited, focused, targeted” attack meant “to deal with terrorists who killed innocent civilians that are plotting to kill more”.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said he could not confirm whether a GBU-39 was used and instead referred questions to the Israeli military, during a press briefing on Wednesday.

Palestinians put out a fire at the site of an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 27, 2024
Palestinians put out a fire at the site of an Israeli strike on an area designated for displaced people, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 27, 2024 (REUTERS)

“I can only point you to what the IDF said therefore I cannot confirm whether or not it was a GBU 39 that delivered the payload on that bomb. You’d have to really talk to the IDF about that,” he said.

The Israeli army quickly claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday and said its air force had struck a Hamas compound with “precise ammunition and on the basis of precise intelligence,” killing two Hamas officials in the process. But on Monday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “tragic mishap” in an address to Israel’s parliament and promised an investigation.

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