'Legal' Weapons Also Kill

Apart from the weapons and ammunition, was there anything legal about killing brothers Kassab and Ibrahim Shurab?

The weapons and ammunition that killed the brothers Kassab and Ibrahim Shurab, aged 28 and 17, were legal. But apart from the weapons and ammunition, was there anything legal about killing them?

On Friday, January 16, the two were driving with their father Mohammed, 64, in a red Land Rover from the family's farm near the Green Line to their home in Khan Yunis. The father drove, Kassab sat in the passenger seat and Ibrahim sat in the back. The temporary cease-fire, allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza, was held between 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. that day.

They came to one Israel Defense Forces inspection point in the area and were allowed to continue. At about 1 P.M. they reached the Abu Zaidan supermarket in the Al-Foukhari neighborhood. An adjacent building had been converted into an IDF outpost. Soldiers moved in, turning the tenants into prisoners in their own homes.

Suddenly intensive fire opened on the Land Rover from the army outpost, about 30 to 50 meters away, according to the father's estimate. Kassab was hit in the chest, came out of the sport utility vehicle (SUV), collapsed and died. Ibrahim jumped out and was hit in the leg by the fire, which did not stop. He tried to call for help on his mobile phone but a soldier shouted at him not to call and swore at him in Arabic, the father told Tom, a member of Physicians for Human Rights, hours later. The father's hand was injured in the fire. He managed to drag his living son to a nearby wall and telephoned home, the Red Crescent, journalists and even his son in the United States. He saw a tank, saw Israeli soldiers coming and going, he told Tom.

At 11 P.M., 10 hours after they were injured, his bleeding son grew colder and his breath weakened. Mohammed managed to drag him back to the shell-riddled SUV in the hope of finding a warmer spot for him. But half an hour after midnight, between Friday and Saturday, the son took his last breath in his father's arms, 30 to 50 meters away from the soldiers.

Tom, from his Tel Aviv home, joined the night-long efforts of the Red Crescent and other organizations, trying to persuade the army to allow an ambulance to evacuate the wounded men. Every now and then, the father called Tom, who says he did not hear any shooting in the background when Mohammed talked to him. The European Hospital is located some two kilometers from the site. One minute's ride in an ambulance? Two? At about 9:30 the next morning Tom was told that the IDF had permitted an ambulance to approach at 12 noon that day.

The IDF spokesman commented: "The ambulance was permitted to enter only after a situation assessment of the area was held and it was decided that the operative conditions allowed for it. The wounded were evacuated by the Palestinian Health Ministry to a hospital in Rafah.

As a rule, during the "humanitarian corridor," the IDF responded with fire only when rockets were fired at Israel or when fire was directed at the IDF. We cannot investigate and reconstruct every occurrence and confirm or deny every information brought before us."

Anyone who has not escaped the consistent testimonies flowing from bombarded Gaza into self-satisfaction knows that this is not an isolated incident. As was published in Haaretz, soldiers shot at ambulances and at escaping civilians who carried white flags. As the Red Cross witnessed, people injured in the bombings, including children, were trapped for days among the corpses of their relatives at a hearing distance of IDF positions.

Soldiers do not act in a void. They have commanders and there is esprit de corps, which enabled this, just as it enabled IDF mortars to land on UNRWA schools. The IDF is the people's army. The people, an overwhelming majority of it, drank in the argumentations for these acts eagerly and supported them. Israel is a democracy. So Kassab and Ibrahim were killed legally.