IDF Admits 'Mistake' Killed Three Daughters, Niece of Palestinian Doctor

The Israel Defense Forces acknowledged yesterday that the three daughters and a niece of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish were killed by army fire in an incident that had targeted Hamas spotters on the upper levels of the building where the family lived.

Dr. Abu al-Aish, who received a copy of the IDF report, told Haaretz last night that "I had always known the truth about what happened."

Contrary to the initial IDF response that shots had been fired from the home of the doctor, and to rumors on the Internet that an arms cache had been found there, an army investigation at division level showed otherwise.

According to the army investigation, during the fighting in the town of Saja'iyeh, east of Gaza City, a Golani Brigade force came under fire from snipers and mortar firing near the Abu al-Aish home. During the exchanges of fire the IDF force identified figures that were suspected as spotters and guided accurate fire at them. The force commander assessed the situation and ordered a tank providing cover to his troops to target the suspect figures on the upper floor of the home. The tank fired at least two rounds that struck the building's lower level, where the daughters and nieces of Abu al-Aish were staying.

The investigation concluded that tank fire killed the girls and wounded two others.

Following the attack shouts were heard from the structure, and the commander of the Golani force ordered the tank to cease fire. Dr. Abu al-Aish contacted the officers at the scene, and they brought in an ambulance to evacuate the injured children to the Erez Crossing, and from there to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

The IDF expressed its "regret" for the incident but said that days prior to the incident, it had asked Dr. Abu al-Aish to evacuate his family from the home because of the strong Hamas presence in the area. Aircraft dropped flyers in the area calling on civilians to evacuate their homes because of intense fighting. The IDF maintains that most of the civilians did leave the area.

No measures will be taken against those responsible for the incident as the army has deemed it a "mistake."

Responding to the conclusions of the investigation, Dr. Abu al-Aish said that "we all make mistakes, and we don't repeat them." The plight of his family became one of the symbols of the Gaza offensive for Israelis after he was shown sobbing on television in a live report on the death of his three daughters and his niece. The 55-year-old gynecologist, a father of eight, trained in Israeli hospitals and speaks Hebrew.

"I always knew the truth about what happened, and now everyone can see that this is what the investigation concluded, that they bombed my house with two rounds. Then they started saying all sorts of things [allegations regarding firing from his home], and now I thank every one who took action to bring out the truth and were brave enough to say they were wrong.

The Palestinian doctor also said that "in the investigation they are talking about fire coming from Saja'iyeh, and I actually live in Jabalya, and at the time, it was quiet where we were. They are talking about 'figures' that were moving about there, but those were just my daughters. They are talking about snipers, and my daughters were expert 'marksmen' who only hoped to reach achievements in their education, and it was possible to see that they were there.

"I also do not understand why they only mentioned my three daughters when also my niece was killed," he added.

"I hope now that the truth is out, they will know to make use of it for something positive, so there will be more trust, and that we could coexist."

The investigation report was approved by GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant, Chief of Operations Major General Tal Russo and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.