Israel army admits 'mistakes' over attack that killed Gaza family

2019-12-25 12:21
Israel has struck a series of military targets in the Gaza Strip. (Screen grab, AFP)

Israel has struck a series of military targets in the Gaza Strip. (Screen grab, AFP)

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A strike in Gaza that killed nine members of the same family was due to a faulty assessment of the risk to civilians, the Israeli army said as it admitted "mistakes".

Air strikes on November 14 targeted the home of Rasmi Abu Malhous, a Palestinian Authority (PA) employee in Gaza, and his brother Mohamed.

WATCH | Israel strikes Gaza in response to rocket fire - army

Nine members of the al-Sawarka family were killed by four strikes over their home in Deir al-Balah. Five victims were children.

The air raids killed Rasmi, his second wife Maryam, 45, and three of his 11 children - 3-year-old Salim, Mohannad, 12, and 3-month-old Firas.

The bombing also killed Mohamed's wife Yousra, 39, and two of their sons, Moaaz, 7, and Waseem, 13. Mohamed died on November 22 as a result of his wounds.

Cross-border fighting

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They were among 34 Palestinians killed by Israeli air raids over the Gaza Strip during two days of cross-border fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad. At least 63 Israelis also received treatment for injuries from rocket fire from Gaza.

The Israeli army claimed it targeted the house of a military commander belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group, an allegation rejected by the victims' family.

In its statement on Tuesday, the Israeli army said that intelligence collected ahead of the attack had indicated that the residence "was designated as an Islamic Jihad terror organisation military compound".

The army had "estimated" that "civilians would not be harmed as a result of an attack" on the site, which was not believed to be accessible to members of the public.

An army inquiry later found "that even though military activity was conducted in the compound, it was not a closed compound, and in reality civilians were present there", it said.

The army said it would learn from its "mistakes" to reduce "the recurrence of similar irregular events".

It stressed it had made "considerable efforts... to reduce the damage to non-combatants".

The military report also blamed Islamic Jihad for exploiting and endangering non-combatants "by placing its military assets in the heart of the civilian population and by deliberately acting from within densely populated civilian areas."

The two sides began exchanging fire after Israel killed Islamic Jihad top commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata in Gaza. In response, the Islamic Jihad fired rockets into southern Israel, with Israel's military saying it recorded more than 350 projectiles.

A ceasefire, reportedly brokered by Egypt, was declared the morning after the al-Sawarka family was targeted.

Read more on:    israel  |  middle east peace

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