Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Aerial photograph of the location of the IDF attack, compared to the location that Hamas claimed was attacked. May 26, 2024

International leaders are still accusing Israel of carrying out a “massacre” this past Sunday night after an attack on a Hamas compound in the southern Gaza city of Rafah somehow ignited a massive blaze.

The accusations were made — and are continuing — without bothering to first hear what IDF investigators learned about the incident. It’s no surprise — the same thing happened months ago after a hospital yard blew up. By the time the facts became known, Hamas had manage to convince the world that Israel was at fault. In reality, Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists had launched — and misfired — rockets they aimed at Israel, and the same thing has happened again.


Speaking at a special English-language briefing Tuesday afternoon, IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters the attack took place more than a kilometer – and more than a mile – from the civilian humanitarian safe zone. Moreover, the munitions used in the attack could not account for the massive explosions that followed.

Nevertheless, French President Emmanuel Macron – who should already know better – has already accused Israel of deliberately targeting Gaza civilians. “These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians,” he wrote on social media, calling for “full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire” in the wake of a roaring fire that erupted following an Israel Defense Forces attack in Rafah this past Sunday evening.

The US called images from the site “devasting” and “heartbreaking.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself described the attack as a “tragic incident” during an address to the Israeli Knesset, though he stopped short of taking responsibility for the blaze.

Not one international leader bothered to wait for an IDF investigation into the conflagration that killed at least eight Gazans and hurt dozens more. (Hamas claims “dozens” were killed, of course.)

So what really happened?

“On Sunday night we eliminated senior Hamas terrorists in a targeted strike on a compound used by KHmas in Rafah,” Hagari said.

“The strike was based on precise intelligence that indicated these terrorists, who were responsible for orchestrating and executing terror attacks against Israelis, were meeting inside the specific structure we targeted.

Yassin Rabia identity card

Khaled Najjar identity card

“These terrorists were responsible for the death of Israelis and they were actively commanding operations that could have killed even more. Their deaths saved lives,” Hagari said.

“Sadly, following the strike due to an unforeseen circumstances a fire ignited, tragically taking the lives of Gazan civilians nearby despite our efforts to minimize civilian casualties during the strike.

“The fire that broke out was unexpected and unintended,” he emphasized. “This is a devastating incident which we did not expect. We are investigating what caused the fire that resulted in this tragic loss of life. The investigation is ongoing.”

The facts that have emerged from the IDF investigation thus far, however, indicate the strike took place at a distance from the area of the tents, aimed at a closed structure.

“As you can see in our aerial surveillance from the time of the strike, we we targeted a closed structure away from the tent area. As you can see, there are no tents in the immediate vicinity of the structure that we targeted.

“Contrary to reports, we conducted a strike outside the area that we designated as a humanitarian area and called civilians to evacuate to. Our strike was over a kilometer and a half away from the Al-Mawasi humanitarian area, what we call the safe zone,” Hagari noted.

Location of the strike, 1.7 kilometers from the Al Mawasi humanitarian safe zone. Maay 26, 2024

“Here is where Hamas claims we struck and here is where we conducted our strike against the Hamas senior commanders outside the area designated as a humanitarian area.”

Location where Hamas claims IDF struck, and actual location of the strike.

“Our aerial surveillance was filming prior to the strike in order to minimize civilian harm,” Hagari pointed out.

“Here is the footage from our strike of the specific structure where the senior Hamas commanders were meeting,” he said, showing reporters the footage.

“The strike was conducted using two munitions with small warheads suited for this targeted strike. We’re talking about munitions with 17 kilos of explosive material; this is the smallest munition that our jets can use,” Hagari explained.

“Following this strike a large fire ignited for reasons that are still being investigated.

“Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” he emphasized. “I repeat: Our ammunition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size.”

The investigation, he noted, “seeks to determine what may have caused such a large fire to ignite. We are looking into all possibilities, including the option that weapons stored in a compound next to our target which we we did not know about may have ignited as a result of the strike.”

Hagari added that Hamas has been operating from this area since October 7th.

“Here in this satellite image 43 meters from the structure we targeted you can see Hamas rocket launchers,” he said. “Hamas fired rockets from these launchers at Israel during their massacre on October 7th.

Location of the rocket launch pits.

“We are also assessing footage documented by Gazans on the night of the strike posted on social media which appear to show secondary explosions, indicating that there may have been weapons in the area,” he said.

“Our signal intelligence intercepted some phone calls that reinforce this concern, raising the possibility that weapons stored in a nearby compound caught fire.

Listen: Here is one of those phone calls.

“We are working to verify the cause of the fire,” Hagari repeated. “It is still too early to be determined, [but] even when we do find the cause of the fire that erupted it won’t
make this situation any less tragic,” he said.

“We took a number of steps prior to the strike to avoid civilian casualties:
1. Aerial surveillance from above;
2. Using specific munitions aimed at minimizing collateral damage;
3. Delaying the attack in order to further assess expected civilian presence, and other
means,” he noted.

“This incident is being investigated by the general staff fact-finding and assessment mechanism, an independent and professional body that is investigating the circumstances of
those killed in the area of the strike.

“This investigation will be swift, comprehensive and transparent,” Hagari pledged. “Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza, which is why we convey deep sorrow for this tragic loss of life.”

Israeli forces also carried out other actions prior to the attack to verify the existence of women and children in the compound where the Hamas terrorists were,” Hagari told a reporter, but did not share specific information about what was done.

“We know that in the compound that we attacked there were only Hamas members,” he said. “We’re now trying to understand what was in the compound nearby” to determine whether there was something in that compound that could have ignited the fire.

Hagari declined to specifically name the munition used, but said it was the “smallest munition that our jet fighters can use, and it’s also a very accurate munition.”

The IDF is continuing to operate in Rafah “in a very targeted and precise way,” Hagari said. “There is still terror in Rafah. There are still Hamas battalions in Rafah.

“A couple of days ago, launchers from Rafah fired [rockets] at Tel Aviv. Millions of people went into bomb shelters,” he pointed out. “There is still terror in Rafah today, and the day before we’ve again detected tunnels on the Philadelphi corridor. Those are tunnels going to Sinai. We are talking to the Egyptians. We are demolishing those tunnels. We are working in a precise and targeted way,” he said.

“There are still hostages in Rafah and we need to make sure that we do everything we can to bring our hostages back home.”

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleAn Unprecedented Historical Event in Perspective
Next articleDefense Ministry Reports Hundreds of Northern Israeli Homes Damaged in Hezbollah Attacks
Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.