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US condemns loss of life, but says no policy changes after civilian deaths in Israeli strike

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday condemned the loss of life of dozens of civilians as a result of an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, but said it is not planning any policy changes as a result of the Israeli actions.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Israel had not violated Biden’s “red line” for withholding future offensive arms transfers because it has not, and it appears to the US that it will not, launch a full-scale ground invasion into the city in southern Gaza.

“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,” Kirby said.

Kirby called the loss of life “heartbreaking” and “horrific,” and said “we certainly condemn the loss of life here.” He added that the US was monitoring the results of an Israeli investigation into the strike, which suggested the civilian deaths were the result of a secondary explosion after a successful strike on two Hamas operatives.

“We understand that this strike did kill two senior Hamas heads who are directly responsible for attacks,” Kirby said. “We’ve also said many times Israel must take every precaution possible to do more to protect innocent life.”

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters that Israel’s weeks-old offensive in Rafah was still on a “far different” scale than the assaults Israeli forces waged on other cities in Gaza earlier in the seven-month war against Hamas. The US had urged Israel not to replicate those earlier attacks in Rafah, given the vulnerable civilians crowded there.

Miller said he had no direct knowledge of reported accounts from witnesses on the ground Tuesday that Israeli tanks had entered the center of Gaza, and noted Israel had denied responsibility for a new Israeli strike outside of Rafah on Tuesday that Gaza health officials said killed more than 20 people.

Asked whether the strike would result in any US policy changes, Kirby said, “I have no policy changes to speak to.”

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said she did not know whether it was a US-provided weapon that was used in the deadly Sunday strike that killed dozens of civilians at a displacement camp. “I do not know what type of ammunition was used in that airstrike,” Singh said. “I have to refer you to the Israelis to speak to that.”

The Israelis have said they used small-diameter precision munitions in the attack and have suggested that a secondary explosion caused the number of civilian deaths. Singh said the US has not paused shipments to Israel in the wake of the strike. “Security assistance continues to flow,” Singh said.

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AP writers Tara Copp and Ellen Knickmeyer contributed.

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