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Israel's army yet to name target of al-Dalou family attack
Published Sunday 09/12/2012 (updated) 12/12/2012 10:24
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A Palestinian relative of four sibling children of the al-Dalou family,
who were killed in an Israeli air strike, reacts as he stands next their
bodies at a hospital in Gaza City November 18, 2012.
(Reuters/Mohammed Salem)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Accused of committing a war crime by a leading human rights group, Israel's army will still not identify the target of an airstrike on Gaza City that killed 10 relatives and two neighbors.

Israeli planes bombed the al-Dalou family home on Nov. 18, crushing to death two men, six women and four children, whose ages ranged from one to 83.

Human Rights Watch said Friday the strike "was a clear violation of the laws of war."

"The Israeli claim that the attack on the al-Dalou home was justified is unsupported by the facts," said HRW's Fred Abrahams, who investigated the case in Gaza.

HRW noted "different explanations" from army officials over the attack, which is supported by a Ma'an review of available records and interviews with an army representative.

Yehiya Rabia or Muhammad al-Dalou?

On the day of the attack, Israel's military named the target as Yehiya Rabia, described as the head of Hamas’ rocket launching unit. "There were civilians harmed by this," army spokesman Yoav Mordechai told Israeli TV, saying he didn’t know the outcome of the strike on Rabia.

An Israeli military spokeswoman later told Ma'an that Rabia was not targeted during the eight-day war on Gaza, and his name never appeared on Israel's list of militants it had killed.

Later that Sunday, army spokeswoman Avital Leibovich told the New York Times the strike had been an "accident."

A day after the strike, Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an Israeli army report saying the mistaken attack was likely a technical failure: either a bomb misfired or the target was not identified correctly.

But ten days on, Leibovich told AFP that the army had in fact targeted a family member, Muhammad al-Dalou, describing him as a Hamas militant.

"There was no mistake from the IDF. It's tragic when a terror operative is hiding among civilians but unfortunately it is part of Hamas and Islamic Jihad tactics," she said on Nov. 28.

Human Rights Watch, noting that Muhammad al-Dalou is described by his commander and a police spokesman as a member of a civilian force protecting VIPs, does not find the shifting rationales convincing.

"Israel’s belated effort, once it could scour the list of victims, to defend the attack by naming a civilian police officer found among the dead suggests an after-the-fact attempt to justify the unjustifiable," Abrahams said.

'Not everything is known'

Questioned by Ma’an twice in the past week about the strike, Leibovich denied she had identified Muhammad al-Dalou as the target.

"What I said is that the targets we picked were not innocent civilians," she said last Sunday.

Declining to comment on whether the intended target was killed, or the target’s name, she explained: "In this large scale operation there are many sites targeted, sometimes you can't know ahead or you don't know the result."

Asked again for the target's name after Friday's HRW report, Leibovich told Ma'an: "Not everything is known at this point."

Meanwhile, she continued to describe the target as a Hamas militant "who used the house as a hiding place."

Leibovich said an army investigation was ongoing, and noted the al-Dalou family home was just one of over 1,500 sites hit during the war.

When asked if the al-Dalou strike might be prioritized as an incident for investigation due to the high civilian casualties, she said "we are looking at the operation as a whole, there are different types of investigations, different areas ... with the airforce, intelligence."

Army investigations

Investigation procedures by Israel's army have been criticized by human rights groups in the country.

In May this year, the army closed an investigation into an airstrike on the al-Samouni home in Gaza that killed 21 civilians over three years earlier, during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

The Military Advocate General said there was no evidence of wrongdoing and declined to pursue disciplinary or criminal measures, a response described by Israeli group B’Tselem as "unacceptable."

B’Tselem director Jessica Montell wrote at the time: "The al-Samouni case only illustrates the broader problem regarding the military's ability to examine itself."

After the al-Dalou family killing, three human rights groups, one based in Israel and two in Gaza, wrote to the Military Advocate General demanding a criminal investigation be opened. They have yet to receive a response.

Human Rights Watch said Friday the "onus is on Israel to explain why it bombed a home full of civilians killing 12 people."

"Even if al-Dalou, a low-ranking police officer, was a legitimate military target under the laws of war, the likelihood that the attack on a civilian home would have killed large numbers of civilians made it unlawfully disproportionate," the group said.

Avoiding civilian casualties

Leibovich insists that civilians were not the target of the strike, and blamed militants for hiding amongst civilians, but would not specify what measures were taken to avoid casualties in the al-Dalou airstrike.

In general, she said, the army drops leaflets, sends messages, and drops warning devices to avoid harming civilians.

"Even if we didn't call them, and I'm not saying we didn't, we conveyed messages to Gaza through Palestinian media channels," she said.

Israel’s army took over broadcast frequencies in Gaza during the assault, describing the measure as a way to communicate to the people of Gaza.

Meanwhile, the sole survivor of the airstrike, 16-year-old Nasser Saluha, told Human Rights Watch that "he had gone to the house to play with the other children and they were about to eat lunch in an upstairs room when the house was struck without any warning."

Nasser, whose brother Samah was killed in the strike, described the strike to HRW: "I felt a shock and pressure and something was pulling me into the ground. I found myself lying on my back with dust and sand all over my body. I managed to get out of the rubble and run into the street."

Eight of his relatives and two neighbors were pulled out of the rubble dead that day. It took another five days to retrieve the bodies of the final two casualties, 17-year-old Yara al-Dalou, and 29-year-old Muhammad.
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1 ) Mel / USA
09/12/2012 19:40
Keep spewing the criminal hasbara M/S Liebobitch!We wouldn't expect anything MORE! Every word U say-just like your Zionist predecessors-leads Israel deeper still into self-destruction.U Zionists SHAME humanity & your own JEWISH people &cultures.And,MORE FOOL global Jewry 4 still hanging on to the coat-tails of mendacious politico/ideo-Zionism.The world will always side with the poor children on that morgue slab!Your only "target" is ALL non-Jews,in any Arab region,who resist your COLONIZATION!

2 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/12/2012 20:41
I mean come on guys. Matt, Brian, all you Zio-warriors. Admit it. You WANT Israel to be this way. You'd fight like mad cats (and do) to fend off the day in which Israel can no longer slaughter children at will. This is why you love Israel so. It commits the crimes you can't. An Israel that didn't kill children just wouldn't be Israel, would it?

3 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/12/2012 20:43
To Mel #1 'The world will always side with the poor children on that morgue slab!Your only "target" is ALL non-Jews,in any Arab region,who resist your COLONIZATION!' You're being unfair. There isn't some dark purpose behind the slaughter. The slaughter is an end in itself.

4 ) Jack / USA
09/12/2012 20:45
Israel named the target as Yehia Rabie, the chief of rocket launching operations, during the day they struck the Dalou family. They were celebrating his death when they were informed that they hit his neighbor's house instead, and since then they have tried to bury this story with silence.

5 ) Mel / USA
09/12/2012 21:42
#3 Dear Colin:The greater shame lays on our West,for enabling Zionism's evil path to DARKNESS.Rational,compassionate humans always defend the goodness of LIGHT,against those who'd extinquish it & plunge us all into darkness. Children carry that light & Israel kills children.America was once a nation that valued the principles of, "...breaking the chains of slavery and servitude to colonial interests."(P.M.Moh'd Mossadegh:elected democratically:overthrown by CIA)."If I sit silently,I have sinned"

6 ) AKeenReader / UK
09/12/2012 22:11
Refer Israel to the ICC for wsar crimes against humanity. Let the ICC decide the outcome and NOT IDF or the Israeli idiots

7 ) gabi / australia
10/12/2012 01:50
#6 - "refer Israel to the ICC for war crimes . . ." except by that time they would have got their act together and made up a semi-believable story. Because, remember, this is "the most moral army in the world" operating in "the light to all nations" "who have the right to were defend ourselves from thousands and thousands of rocket fired at our citizens daily and . . . . . " And all that BS.

8 ) ABE / USA
10/12/2012 02:16
Whine all you want about these poor souls who did NOT deserve their fate, but there are no rules in War! Hamas follows no rules when it comes to their rockets. They would dance in the streets if one of their rockets aimed at Tel Aviv killed hundreds of Jews, men, woman or children. You Pal kiss asses don't want to see the lack of Morality on the Gazen side at all!!

9 ) Robert / US
10/12/2012 03:34
What Israel(Mostly European /American Jews) does to the Palestinians is of Evil & Darkness Period !!!! On Their Own Land.

10 ) ayat / usa
10/12/2012 03:51
why does it matter who the intended "target" was? like that makes a difference? somehow "we are sorry, it was a mistake, we thought it was hamas home" doesn't account for anything. killing children, entire families, KHALAS! Enough! HRW needs to shut up "legitimate military target under the laws of war"?! Tell that to the 100's upon 100's of martyred men, women and children and their families, military or civilians - makes no difference - Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un

11 ) southparkbear / usa
10/12/2012 07:40
sad stories are unavoidable when terrorists use civilians as human shields. when gaza terrorists carry their attacks on israeli civilians away from densed areas such things will not take place.

12 ) ABE / USA
10/12/2012 08:53
To #2 please explain the "morality" of Hamas who fire rockets trying to kill any Jew!! War is hell people die! innocent people die all the time. War sucks but DO NOT talk Gazan morality, you do not have a leg to stand on!!

13 ) ia / australia
10/12/2012 14:30
Is anyone really buyng Israeli "precision"? "Surgical" strikes on "bad guys" which avoid civilian deaths? Terrible "accidents" where the wrong "target" is hit and "inquiries" to get to the bottom of it? For a hi-tech army they're pretty sloppy. And challenged, they resort to the same old "it wasn't our fault" waffle about "human shields". IDF "precision" is a self-serving myth, G-d knows, there's no evidence for it, whose bluff is NEVER called. They employ all the ACTUAL care and "precision"

14 ) ian / australia
10/12/2012 14:33
(contd.) of Bernie Madoff choosing "investments". Or "Bomber" Harris in 1945. And when indiscriminate carnage, like the attack on the al-Dalou home, is just as effective...well, why even bother going to the extra trouble of being "precise"? The Israeli stategy was clear: hit hard to terrorise the population of Gaza. To put "the dread of thee and the fear of thee" upon them. To restore "deterrence". But it's all made clear (and these issues irrelevant) when you remember what Israel IS:

15 ) ian / australia
10/12/2012 14:36
(contd.) an eccentric entity which refuses to obey ANY laws, lies constantly, has no moral code beyond survival (which is not a moral code), no shame and a population addled by triumphalism and other rubbish which supports each new outrage commited by the government. There's no "issue" here about Israeli "care" or legality...just a thick fog designed to hide reality.

16 ) Colin Wright / USA
11/12/2012 00:21
To ABE #8 'Whine all you want about these poor souls who did NOT deserve their fate, but there are no rules in War!' That's what Hitler said! Funny how you Zionists keep inadvertently repeating him, isn't it? Why do you think that would be?

17 ) Colin Wright / USA
11/12/2012 00:23
To ABE #12 'To #2 please explain the "morality" of Hamas who fire rockets trying to kill any Jew!! ' Hamas had no choice. She was entirely willing to abide by the ceasefire Israel had just pretended to agree to -- then Israel attacked. If you want Hamas' aim to be better, I suggest you supply her with better munitions. What's your excuse?

18 ) Deborah / USA
11/12/2012 00:42
ABE/USA "Whine all you want about these poor souls who did NOT deserve their fate, but there are no rules in War!" From a supporter of The Only Democracy in the Middle East. What does that tell you?

19 ) ABE / USA
11/12/2012 18:36
#17, What the hell are you talking about. What you state is dilusional thinking. Hamas has no CHOICE trying to kill innocent men , woman and children? WHAT!!! Hamas was entiely willing to abide by the cease fire? They were given Gaza in 2005, They went to war with Fatah and kicked them out because they did not want to talk Peace with the"Zionist" entity. They then started firing rockets indiscimanatly from Gaza, sending suicide bombers into ISRAEL to kill Jews then danced in the streets!

20 ) ian / australia
14/12/2012 23:29
#19 You gotta get out more ABE (or change TV channels once in a while). "...but there are no rules in War!" er, yes there are. Lots. Like GCIV. Just coz Israel ignores them doesn't mean they don't exist. (That's why they have war crimes trials at the Hague.) "Hamas was entiely willing to abide by the cease fire?" Not only is that true, but Israel got the ball rolling by whacking Ahmed al-Jabari who had just finalised a long-term ceasefire deal when he was killed. He was Israel's "moderate"

21 ) ian / australia
14/12/2012 23:30
(contd.) go-to guy in Hamas and had been in contact through the process. Funny huh? Guess they didn't like the deal. "They were given Gaza in 2005" Given? Surely it was theirs already. I suppose you could say people herded into a cage, kept alive on starvation rations and blockaded by land, sea and air have been "given" the cage...but you'd need to exist in a weird Zionist "bubble", in total disconnect/denial of reality, to think it made any sense.
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