Parents Wonder How the IDF Shot Their 9-year-old Daughter

Khan Yunis, Gaza. A week ago today, at about 7:00 P.M., Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed Aya al-Astal, 9, of Khan Yunis. She was killed east of the city, close to where the Kissufim checkpoint was located.

Aya's grieving parents cannot understand how their daughter nearly reached the border fence, eight kilometers away, and how the soldiers, with their sophisticated and accurate night-vision equipment, killed their tiny little girl.

Earlier this week, the IDF said its initial investigation found no fault in the judgment used by the unit commander, and that the shooting was carried out according to firing guidelines.

At about 7:30 P.M. last Thursday, the IDF informed the Palestinian security coordinator that "soldiers shot and hit a terrorist." The commander of Palestinian national security in the area, Maher Ziara, was notified.

Two hours later, Ziara and his men began searching the area. At about 10:00 P.M., Ziada recalled, he saw a small figure folded up on the bare ground.

"She was so small, I almost thought she was a doll," Ziada said this week. He saw a large hole on the left side of her neck, and then noticed bullet holes in her left knee, right arm and the left side of her abdomen. The IDF report said she was carrying a large backpack. Ziada and his men found no pack in the area.

Aya's family started worrying about her at 6:00 P.M. They had eaten lunch at 3:00 P.M. Aya did not want the rice and peas, she wanted falafel. Later she went outside to play. A neighbor who was baking pita bread called her to come in and have some.

Aya's mother went into town to shop, and returned about two hours later. The last person to see her playing in the street was her brother Abd al-Hamid, at about 4:30 P.M. At 6:00 P.M., the family started looking for her in the neighborhood, and then reported her missing.

At about 9:30 P.M. an uncle, Isma'il, heard a radio report about the infiltrator shot near the border, but barely paid attention. At 10:00 P.M. the report said the "infiltrator" was a 13-year-old girl, and when it was announced that the body was at the hospital, he was the first to arrive and identify her.

Aya's father, Saliman, believes his daughter got on a bus, but that is just a guess.

Saliman, Isma'il and Ziara this week pointed out the Israeli guardtower across the border, next to where the tank that shot Aya was deployed.

"They say they have such sophisticated equipment for night vision," Saliman said over and over. "Couldn't they see it was a little girl? Doesn't the soldier who shot her have children, or little brothers and sisters?"