Biden Administration Declines to Confirm Use of U.S. Bombs in Deadly Rafah Strike

The Biden administration did not confirm on Wednesday if Israel used American-made bombs in a recent airstrike that killed numerous displaced Palestinians at a Rafah camp.

CNN reported that explosive experts identified the remains of the U.S.-produced GBU-39 small diameter bomb at the scene, based on social media video analysis. Similarly, The New York Times concluded that the GBU-39, manufactured in the U.S., was used in the attack.

“We’re not going to speak to individual payload loadouts on individual Israeli aircraft,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said. “The [Israeli military] should address their actions, including the munitions used.” The Gaza Health Ministry stated that the airstrike on Rafah’s outskirts resulted in at least 45 deaths and over 240 injuries, with most victims being women and children.

Kirby mentioned that Israel had acknowledged using precision-guided munitions with a payload of approximately 37 pounds, suggesting an attempt at precise targeting. When asked about the munitions in the Rafah strike, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh replied, “I do not know what type of munition was used in that airstrike. I’d have to refer you to the Israelis to speak to that.”

U.S. officials have urged Israel to employ more precise bombs with smaller payloads to reduce civilian casualties. The Israeli military has not specified the bomb type but indicated it was a “specific type of munition with a low amount of explosives.”

At a press conference, Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the strike used two munitions with small warheads containing 17 kilograms of explosives, the smallest munitions their jets carry. Palestinian journalist Alam Sadeq captured video of munition fragments at the camp, marked with a unique code traced to Colorado aerospace manufacturer Woodward, a supplier for the GBU-39 bomb.

The U.S. is Israel’s primary arms supplier. Recently, President Biden signed a foreign aid package, including $26 billion for the Israel-Hamas conflict, with $15 billion for military assistance to Israel. Despite increasing international calls for Biden to press Israel on reducing Palestinian civilian casualties, U.S. support has persisted. The Gaza conflict has claimed approximately 36,000 lives, mainly women and children.

Witnesses’ footage from Rafah showed highly distressing scenes. Hagari explained the military targeted two Hamas leaders in the strike and did not anticipate civilian harm, even though the bombs were dropped near tents with displaced Palestinians. The Israeli military is investigating, suggesting fires may have resulted from a secondary explosion.

“We do not have any more granularity today than we did yesterday about what caused the explosion and fire that killed those innocent Palestinians in the tent compound,” Kirby said. “We have been in touch with our Israeli counterparts again, overnight and today, and we’re trying to get as much information as we can.”