Experts say Israeli strike on Rafah used U.S.-made bomb, resulting in fatalities

Two munitions experts have confirmed that the shrapnel collected from the site of an Israeli airstrike in Rafah on Sunday contained evidence of a U.S.-made GBU-39 bomb, according to analysis of the images. The strike resulted in the deaths of numerous Palestinians and the outbreak of subsequent fires.

“I recognized right away that the housing was a GBU,” said Trevor Ball, a former ordnance disposal technician for the U.S. Army. Having served for five years, Ball has encountered numerous GBUs during his time in the military. In fact, he even researched past conflicts to gain a better understanding of the ordnance Israel has historically employed. His investigation led him to conclude that the GBU is a highly distinctive and unique projectile.”

Journalist Alam Sadeq visited the scene of the strike in Gaza early on Monday and captured photos and videos that were used to identify the bomb remnants.

While searching the area, including the vicinity of damaged tents that were previously occupied by civilians, he stumbled upon several pieces of shrapnel adorned with English words, as he shared with CBS News.

According to Ball, the identification process he uses involves analyzing images of the shrapnel from the scene. He describes the actuator assembly as unique and unlike anything found in other rounds.

Richard Weir, a senior researcher in the Crisis, Conflict, and Arms division at Human Rights Watch, shared Ball’s perspective.

According to Weir, an important component is the tail section, also known as the control section or actuator section, which is responsible for moving the fins at the rear. This component aligns perfectly with the U.S.-made GBU-39 small diameter bomb. Additionally, it corresponds with the description of the warhead’s size in terms of explosive weight.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking to press in Moldova, described the incident as “horrific” when asked by CBS News about the use of U.S.-made munitions by Israel in the strike. However, he stated that he could not confirm the specific weapons that were employed.

“We need to wait and see what the investigation reveals,” expressed Blinken. “However, if we momentarily assume that to be the case, that is indeed what occurred, I believe it is important to acknowledge that even operations with specific objectives, aimed at countering terrorists responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians and planning further attacks, can result in unforeseen and devastating consequences.”

Blinken emphasized the importance of Israel having a plan for the aftermath of the conflict in Gaza. He highlighted the need for Israel to consider the potential consequences of military action, weighing the potential short-term gains against the possible long-term repercussions. Blinken specifically mentioned the challenge of targeting militants who are closely intertwined with civilian populations. Without a comprehensive “day after” plan, Israel would have to carefully evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of any incremental progress made against Hamas.

According to Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari, during a briefing on Tuesday, the Israeli strike on Rafah was a response to precise intelligence indicating that the targeted structure was being used by terrorists responsible for planning and carrying out attacks against Israelis.

According to Hagari, the strike used two munitions with small warheads that were specifically chosen for this targeted strike. The munitions contained 17 kilos of explosive material, which is the smallest size that our jets can use. However, it is important to note that the large fire that ensued after the strike was not solely caused by our munition. The exact reasons for the fire are still under investigation.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the deadly strike as a “tragic mishap” and stated that Israel is currently conducting an investigation into the incident. He did not provide any further details.

Weir mentioned that despite being a relatively small air-dropped munition, the bomb still poses a significant threat, particularly in densely populated regions. In an interview with CBS News, Weir emphasized that although it may not be the smallest weapon suitable for a precise strike, it still carries substantial risks.

According to Weir, Israel possesses numerous other types of munitions that it has previously utilized in conflicts in Gaza and other areas. This indicates that there are alternative options available to them. It is incorrect to assume that the airstrike on or near a densely populated camp for internally displaced persons could only be carried out using this specific weapon.

According to Ball, a former bomb diffuser, he admits that he may not have sufficient knowledge about aircraft integration. However, he points out that the munition used for precision strikes is not the smallest available. He explains that drone-employed weapons are commonly utilized, and they have a much smaller effective area.

According to both Weir and Ball, any size bomb has the potential to initiate a fire.

According to Ball, explosives generate a significant amount of heat upon detonation and are often responsible for starting fires. He explains that while technically an explosive dropped in the desert without any fuel present cannot ignite a fire on its own, the scenario becomes different when the explosive is dropped in an area abundant with flammable materials, such as camps where people reside. In such cases, the explosive has the potential to easily trigger a fire.

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