Did the US play a role in Israel’s massacre at Gaza’s Nuseirat?

The bombardment of Nuseirat was one of the most intense during Israel’s war on Gaza [Getty]

Israel committed a massacre in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on Saturday, killing hundreds of civilians, according to Gaza authorities.

Israel called the assault on Nuseirat a “complex daytime operation” aimed at releasing four Israeli captives held in the refugee camp.

However, the civilian death toll in Nuseirat and the nearby town of Deir el-Balah has been devastating, with at least 274 Palestinians killed by Israel and almost 700 wounded.

Much of the world reacted with horror, with the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, condemning “in the strongest terms … reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians”.

In a post on X, he called what occurred a “bloodbath”.

Hours after the massacre, it emerged that the US had “supported” Israel in its operation.

The New Arab pieces together how the massacre unfolded and what role the US played in it.

A ‘rescue operation’

The Israeli assault on Nuseirat consisted of commandos from Israel’s elite Yamam ‘counter-terrorism’ unit raiding two apartment complexes in the refugee camp where four captives were being held. 

Once they were in place, these commandos were apparently backed up by hundreds of Israeli soldiers and armoured battalions. 

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that it was a “rescue operation” planned “weeks in advance”, with Israel even building models of the two apartments in preparation.

Footage online purportedly shows Israeli forces disguised as humanitarian workers, even using fake humanitarian aid trucks as part of the raid, but this has not been verified.

All that is known is that the commandos forced their way into the complexes, secured the captives and then escaped back into Israel via helicopter. 

‘Hell on earth’  a premeditated massacre?

However, it’s what Israel did before, during and after the rescue operation that is most controversial.

Despite Israel admitting it had strong intelligence on the layout of Nuseirat and the density of its population, it proceeded to heavily bombarded it. Before the operation, Israel relentlessly struck residential buildings, marketplaces and other civilian areas, with this continuing during and after the rescue operation. Israeli forces also stormed the camp after the commandos had freed the captives. 

In Israel’s own words, this bombardment was “pre-planned”, with a military statement claiming the strikes were on “terrorist infrastructure”. This has been contradicted by the testimony of survivors and health workers, as well as video evidence. 

In a matter of minutes, vast areas of Nuseirat had been levelled. 

“[It was] something we never witnessed before, maybe 150 rockets fell in less than 10 minutes, while we were running away more fell on the market,” a Palestinian eyewitness told CNN.

“There are children torn apart and scattered in the streets, they wiped out Nuseirat, it is hell on earth,” he added.

Doctors at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital have reported that “large numbers” of killed and wounded were being brought in and that life-saving procedures had to be carried out on the floor without adequate equipment. They also said that the majority of victims were women and children.

Eyewitnesses also describe Israeli tank fire and shooting at civilians from military units.

Ten-year-old Areej Al Zahdneh, speaking at Al-Aqsa Hospital, told the BBC there were airstrikes, tanks and shooting.

“We couldn’t breathe. My sister Reemaz was hit by shrapnel in her head and my five year old sister Yara was also hit my shrapnel.”

Given Israel had planned the operation for months, it has been alleged that the killing hundreds of civilians was premeditated, with the bombardment coming from air, land and sea. 

US ‘intelligence cell’

It is known that the US played some role in the Nuseirat massacre, but the extent of its participation is not fully understood.

A US official told the Axios news site that a “US cell stationed in Israel” “supported” the Israeli military’s operation, with the New York Times reporting that the US provided “intelligence and other logistical support”.

CNN reported that there were “no US boots on the ground,” adding that the cell has been in place since 7 October, supporting Israel with intelligence gathering. 

Video emerged on social media of a helicopter, said to be carrying the rescued hostages, taking off from a beach in Gaza with the US-built humanitarian pier in the background.

However, two US officials told CBS News that the pier was not used in the operation.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) later said that the “pier facility, including its equipment, personnel and assets were not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza.”

Despite this, rumours of the US pier being used by Israel for the operation persist.

Muhammad Shehada, Chief of Communications for Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, shared the helicopter video on X, writing:

“Israeli soldiers who stormed central Gaza fled towards Biden’s $320 million humanitarian pier & were evacuated from there. It’s likely they sneaked into central Gaza from the pier as well.”

Regardless of the use of the pier, the US did play a role in the Israeli attack that killed over 200 Palestinians, despite its alleged support for a ceasefire

US President Joe Biden congratulated Israel on the return of the four captives without mentioning the slaughter of Palestinians. 

 “We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached,” Biden said at a news conference in Paris alongside French President Emmanuel Macron.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have used the “success” of the rescuing of hostages during the massacre to continue opposing the ceasefire touted by Biden.

“Israel does not surrender to terrorism,” Netanyahu said after the rescue operation. “We will not let go until we complete the mission and return all our hostages home — both the living and the dead,” he added. 

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