Israeli Army Admits to Killing Eight Gaza Family Members: We Thought the House Was Empty

Israeli military’s spokesperson in Arabic said that the target was an Islamic Jihad commander, but defense establishment sources say it was an ‘infrastructure’■ Palestinians say casualties are a family of herders

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Palestinians attend the funeral of the Asoarka family killed in the Israeli strike, Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019.
Palestinians attend the funeral of the Asoarka family killed in the Israeli strike, Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019.Credit: AFP

>> UPDATE: Outdated intelligence, social media rumors: Behind Israel's killing of Gaza familyNo one in Israel knew they were committing a massacre, and they didn't care | Gideon Levy

The Israeli military admitted on Thursday that it made a mistake in targeting a Gaza building Wednesday night which housed a family of eight, all of whom died in the strike.

Haaretz WeeklyCredit: Haaretz

The Israeli army said it assessed that the building in the Deir al-Balah neighborhood was empty, not realizing it was populated by a family. The Israel Defense Forces are investigating the strike, which took place a few hours before a cease-fire came into effect, and its consequences.

"We are aware of the claim that non-combatants were injured in the central Gaza Strip, and we are investigating it," the IDF said in a statement, adding that that "we undertake great intelligence and operational efforts not to harm non-combatants over the course of thwarting terror activities."

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified them as Rasmi al-Sawarkah, 45; his son Muhannad, 12; Maryam, 45; Muath Mohammed, 7; Wasim Mohammed, 13; Yousra, 39; and two toddlers whose bodies were dug up from the debris on Thursday morning and whose names haven’t been released.

Following the strike, the Israeli military's Arabic-language spokesperson announced that the target had been Rasmi Abu Malhous, the Islamic Jihad commander of a rocket squadron in the center of the Strip. He published a picture of Abu Malhous, but residents of Deir al-Balah say the man in the picture isn’t the one who was killed on Wednesday night.

Palestinians attend the funeral procession of members of the same family who were killed overnight in an Israeli airstrike, Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019. Credit: AFP

Sources in the defense establishment said, however, that the target of the strike was "infrastructure," and that they were not at all aware that Palestinians were in it.

Associates and neighbors of the family claim that they had no connection to the Islamic Jihad commander, and that the case was probably one of mistaken identity.

“This was a very simple, poor family, who lives from hand to mouth in a tin shack, with no water or electricity,” said a neighbor who knew the family. “They lived off herding sheep and were known as simple, poor people. Is this the way the head of a rocket unit or a senior Islamic Jihadist lives?

“Every child in Gaza knows the unit members and senior activists live in different conditions, they have houses, and even when they go underground their children and families don’t live in such squalor,” he said. “The story that they attacked a senior jihadist seems disconnected from reality.”

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