Israel’s operation in Rafah doesn’t cross US red lines – White House

The US does not believe Israel has launched a full-scale invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, White House spokesman John Kirby has said.

He spoke hours after Israeli forces reached the centre of the city and reportedly seized a strategically important hill overlooking the nearby border with Egypt.

US President Joe Biden said this month he would limit weapons supplies to Israel if it entered the “population centres” of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are still believed to be sheltering.

Mr Kirby was also questioned about an Israeli strike and a resulting fire that killed at least 45 Palestinians – many of them women, children, or elderly – at a camp for displaced people on Sunday.

Israel has said the strike targeted and killed two senior Hamas officials, and that it believes the fire could have been caused by an explosion at a Hamas weapons store nearby.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Kirby described images from the aftermath of the strike as “heartbreaking” and “horrific”.

“There should be no innocent life lost here as a result of this conflict,” he added.

The US state department said it was watching closely for the Israeli military to conduct a quick and thorough investigation into the strike.

Pressed by BBC correspondent Tom Bateman on whether previous such investigations had led to accountability, state department spokesman Matthew Miller declined to name specific cases.

“You cannot reach a conclusion about the results of these investigations in the middle of a conflict,” he said.

When the White House spokesman was asked whether the strike had violated the limits previously set by President Biden, he said he had “no policy changes to speak to”.

“We don’t support, we won’t support a major ground operation in Rafah,” Mr Kirby said.

“The president said that, should that occur, then it might make him have to make different decisions in terms of support.

“We haven’t seen that happen at this point. We have not seen them smash into Rafah.

“We have not seen them go in with large units, large numbers of troops, in columns and formations in some sort of co-ordinated manoeuvre against multiple targets on the ground.”

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