May 27, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Investigates Civilian Casualties Following Strike on Hamas Officials in Rafah

May 27, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Investigates Civilian Casualties Following Strike on Hamas Officials in Rafah

Latest Developments

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) opened an inquiry on May 26 into an IDF strike on Hamas in western Rafah the night before that resulted in the reported deaths of Gaza civilians via a blaze triggered at a nearby tent camp. Israel’s top military lawyer, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi described the incident as “very grave” and said that the IDF is “committed to conducting [an investigation into the incident] to the fullest extent.” The IDF said the strike had killed two top Hamas officials — Yassin Rabia, the commander of Hamas in the West Bank, and Khaled Nagar, another senior member of the same unit — who were responsible for planning, funding, and carrying out terrorist attacks throughout the West Bank and Israel.

The IDF said that the western Rafah strike was conducted outside of a designated humanitarian area nearby and was based on intelligence that a senior Hamas terrorist was present at the site of the strike. A military source told the Times of Israel that two missiles whose warheads were adapted and “reduced in size” were used in the IDF strike. In a statement to the media, the IDF said it took steps to reduce harm to civilians, including “aerial surveillance, the use of precision munitions, and additional intelligence information.”

Expert Analysis

“In the wake of the tragic incident, the IDF immediately took responsibility for the strike, offered regrets for harm to noncombatants, and opened an investigation. The IDF’s mechanisms of accountability present a stark contrast to the Hamas terror regime, which continues to relentlessly target Israeli civilians while intentionally and repeatedly peddling disinformation to the media.” Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

“Loss of innocent life in war is tragic, and Israel took significant steps to avoid civilian casualties in this incident. The use of human shields is a war crime that cannot be normalized or legitimized. Hamas cannot use this continuous war crime as a veto over Israel’s inherent right to self-defense. The United States should put forward a Security Council resolution imposing United Nations sanctions on Hamas for being a terrorist group that targets civilians and uses human shields to defend itself. Washington should also consider Shields Act sanctions for UNRWA and others helping Hamas use human shields.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Hamas Continues Sending Rocket Barrages Toward Israel From Rafah

The IDF carried out the strike in Rafah hours after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at central Israel from the southern Gaza city on May 26, sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters. On May 5, Hamas attacked Israel’s Kerem Shalom humanitarian crossing, killing four soldiers. Hamas also targeted the Kerem Shalom crossing on May 8 and May 23

Netanyahu Calls Incident a ‘Tragic Accident’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a speech to the Knesset on May 27 that “despite our supreme effort not to harm uninvolved civilians, a tragic accident occurred to our regret last night.” Netanyahu also vowed that Israel would continue fighting in Gaza until “every goal has been achieved.”

“Those who say they are not ready to stand up to the pressure raise the flag of defeat. I won’t raise any such flag. I will keep fighting until the flag of victory is raised,” he added.

Hamas officials admit its strategy is to use Palestinian civilians as human shields,” by Natalie Ecanow

Terrorist Rockets Discovered Next to Gaza’s Border With Egypt,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Terrorists Attack Kerem Shalom Aid Crossing for Fourth Time in May,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Targets Kerem Shalom Aid Crossing and Israeli City of Ashkelon,” FDD Flash Brief


Israel Israel at War