Israeli army says it used small munitions in Rafah airstrike, and fire was caused by secondary blast


DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military says an initial investigation into a strike that sparked a deadly weekend fire in a tent camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah has found the blaze was caused by a secondary explosion.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesman, said Tuesday that the military fired two 37-pound munitions that targeted two senior Hamas militants. He said the munitions would have been too small to ignite a fire on their own and the military is looking into the possibility that weapons were stored in the area.

Palestinian health officials claim at least 45 people were killed in Sunday’s strike. The fire also could have ignited fuel, cooking gas canisters or other materials in the densely populated camp housing displaced people.

An Israeli incursion launched in early May has caused nearly 1 million to flee from Rafah, most of whom had already been displaced in the war between Israel and Hamas. They now seek refuge in tent camps and other war-ravaged areas.

Netanyahu has said Israeli forces must enter Rafah to dismantle Hamas and return hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

Israel says it is carrying out limited operations in eastern Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border.

The war began when Hamas and other militants burst into southern Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 civilians and abducting around 250. More than 100 were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Israel responded to the attack with an offensive that has killed at least 36,096 Palestinians, according to claims by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.