US president Joe Biden says Israel's Rafah strike did not cross red line

Displaced Palestinians inspect their tents destroyed by Israel's bombardment over the weekend. Credit: AP

Israel's strike which started a fire that killed dozens of civilians at a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah did not cross a "red line", the White House has said.

A strike in the southern Gazan city - which was once seen as the final place for refuge - hit tents on Sunday, killing 45 people and injuring about 200 others after a fire, thought to be sparked by shrapnel from the Israeli bombardment, swept through the camp.

Despite condemning the loss of life in Sunday's attack, the Biden administration said US military support to Israel would not be withdrawn.

It comes as a senior Israeli official said the war with proscribed terror group Hamas is likely to last through to the end of the year.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi told Kan public radio that he was "expecting another seven months of fighting".

He added that while the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) is "achieving its objectives", this year has been designated as a "year of war".

Analysis from CNN has shown US-made weapons were used in Sunday's strike, which sparked outrage from some of Israel's closest allies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the strike a "tragic mishap".

Dr James Smith, an emergency doctor working in Rafah, told ITV News that patients were presenting with "some of the most horrific injuries you can imagine", including "extensive burns, open fractures, blast injuries and shrapnel wounds".

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New strikes in the same western Tel al-Sultan district of Rafah killed at least 16 Palestinians on Tuesday, the Palestinian Civil Defence and the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

US President Joe Biden and his top advisers have repeatedly warned Israel against carrying out widescale operations in Rafah without a plan to secure the safety of innocent civilians.

US national security spokesman John Kirby said: "Everything that we can see tells us that they are not moving into a major ground operation in population centers in the center of Rafah."

Other global leaders have condemned Israel's actions, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who used social media to say that "these operations must stop".

Germany's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, called the images of the strike "unbearable" and said the "civilian population must finally be better protected".

What has the human cost of the war been?

  • The war between Israel and Hamas, now in its eighth month, has killed over 36,000 Palestinians, with the majority of these being women and children, according to Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry.

  • Around 80% of the territory's 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and United Nations (UN) officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

  • Hamas triggered the war with its October 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed roughly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages.

  • Hamas is still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of a further 30 after most of the rest were released during a ceasefire last year.

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