Israeli army covered up killing of Palestinian family during May’s Gaza onslaught

Father Alaa Ebu Hatab and his 4-year-old daughter Maria, from Ebu Hatab family of seven (Mustafa Hassona - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  August 3, 2021

Further evidence of the alleged war crimes committed by Israel during its 11-day assault on Gaza in May, which were uncovered by Human Rights Watch last month, was reported by Haaretz today detailing the killing of a Palestinian baby, a teenager and four other civilians.

The Israeli daily gathered eye-witness testimonies of Palestinian families shelled near the Gaza fence. Details revealed in the report, amount to what may be considered a cover-up by the Israeli army of possible war crimes.

It’s claimed that Israeli soldiers “mistakenly” fired shells into an area inhabited by Palestinian farmers, killing a baby, a teenager, and four others. The army never reported the incident, nor did they punish any senior officers.

A nine-month-old baby, a 17-year-old girl, three women, one man, all “noncombatant civilians” as Israel likes to call them, were killed by the occupation army as bombs were rained down on the Gaza Strip during the May onslaught. Homes of Bedouin farmers at Al-Karya compound, an agricultural site near Beit Lahia, were targeted by Israeli jets when they should not have been in their sights, to begin with.

Despite the apparent targeting of civilians, the incident received no publicity but was said to have been known to the army, which decided to investigate it. But after two-and-a-half months, the army only said that it has “learned professional lessons and instilled them into the unit.” This conclusion however has been thrown into doubt.

Haaretz obtained testimonies which suggest admission of foul play by the Israeli army which it has been reluctant to admit publicly. It’s claimed that a few low-ranking soldiers were suspended for a limited time and then returned to their positions, while a battalion officer was moved to a training position. That though was the sum of the conclusions drawn from the killing of unarmed Palestinian families in Beit Lahia. No senior Israeli officer was even punished, let alone dismissed.

During the evening of the planned bombing, the Israeli army failed to inform residents of the need to vacate their homes in anticipation of the impending attack, as is said to be customary during combat in Gaza. Then, at around 6:30 pm on 13 May, the shelling of homes began. One of them directly penetrated the structure where the Abu Daya family lived.

“I found my daughters, the bodies of some of them were in pieces,” said Nasser Abu Fares Abu Daya. “My sons were wounded and the whole place was full of blood.” That morning Abu Fares had been the father of 12; by evening, he was the father of nine. Daughters Fawziya, 17, Nisrin, 26, Sabrine, 28, and her nine-month-old baby, Mohammed Salama, had been killed. Haaretz gathered testimonies from Abu Daya’s neighbours who also lost family members.

The bombing of Abu Daya family is another example of what Human Rights Watch (HRW) has labelled “Apparent War Crimes During May Fighting.” The rights group issued its conclusions last month after investigating three Israeli airstrikes that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians. It also conducted interviews with relatives of civilians killed, residents of areas targeted, and those that witnessed the Israeli attacks.