Deadly Gaza fire likely sparked by hidden terrorist weapons, says IDF

Israeli military denies allegations of airstrike in civilian safe-zone in Gaza, says fire which killed 45 west of Rafah likely caused by hidden terrorist weapons cache.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

The Israeli military on Tuesday announced that a fire which killed dozens of Gaza civilians over the weekend was likely not directly caused by an IDF airstrike on a nearby Hamas command center, but was probably the result of a secondary explosion involving hidden terrorist munitions.

IDF chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters Tuesday that a preliminary Israeli investigation into Sunday night’s airstrike in the Tel Sultan area west of Rafah indicated that the deadly blaze appears to have been caused by the detonation of munitions in or around the Hamas facility hit by the Israeli strike.

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

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

“Sadly, following the strike, due to unforeseen circumstances, a fire ignited, 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.”

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Hagari emphasized that the airstrike was not carried out in the protected civilian zone established by Israel to shield Gaza civilians, and that the airstrike had utilized small, precision munitions which were not capable of causing the deadly conflagration.

“Contrary to reports, we conducted the 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 safer zone.”

“The strike was conducted using two munitions with small warheads, suited for this targeted strike. We are talking about munitions with 17 kilograms of explosive material,” Hagari continued. “This is the smallest munitions that our jets can use.”

“Following this strike, a large fire ignited, for reasons still being investigated. Our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size.”

Israel would nevertheless continue to investigate the incident, Hagari added.

“We are looking into all possibilities, including the option that weapons stored in a compound next to our target, which we did not know of, may have ignited as a result of the strike.”

In a phone call intercepted by Israeli intelligence, a Gazan who witnessed the explosion claimed the Hamas base exploded as a result of weapons stored inside.

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“Yes, this is an ammunition warehouse. I tell you it exploded. The Jewish bombing wasn’t strong, it was a small missile, because it didn’t create a large hole. And afterward a lot of secondary explosions,” the man said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims 45 people were killed in the fires which tore through tents housing refugees following the airstrike.

Two senior Hamas terrorists were eliminated in the airstrike, which targeted the Hamas command-and-control center responsible for directing terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria.

Yassin Rabia, the director of this operations hub, was killed in Sunday night’s airstrike, along with another senior member of the unit, identified as Khaled Nagar.

Later on Tuesday, the IDF denied allegations it had carried out an airstrike inside the protected zone in al-Muwasi.

“Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF did not strike in the Humanitarian Area in al-Mawasi,” an army spokesperson said.

Gaza health officials claimed 21 people were killed in the latest airstrike.