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Israel sees no criminal liability in Gaza family bombing

April 14, 2013|By Edmund Sanders
  • Palestinians stand in the rubble of the Dalu family's house in Gaza after an Israeli air strike. Ten members of the family -- six women and four children -- were killed in the strike, which a new report from Israel's military says was a mistake.
Palestinians stand in the rubble of the Dalu family's house in Gaza… (Hatem Moussa / Associated…)

JERUSALEM - An Israeli investigation into the worst civilian tragedy of last November’s Gaza Strip offensive – an attack that killed 10 members of a single family and two neighbors – concluded that soldiers bombed the home by mistake and should not face criminal charges or other disciplinary action.

The Nov. 18 Israeli air strike was one of the most horrific and widely publicized incidents of the eight-day clash with the Gaza-based militant group Hamas. The military campaign, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, came after Gaza militants refused to stop firing rockets into southern Israel and Israel Defense Forces retaliated by assassinating the top Hamas military commander.

At least 168 Palestinians were killed during the conflict, including 101 civilians, a U.N. report found. Six Israelis, including four civilians, were killed by Palestinian rocket fire.

After examining 80 allegations of misconduct, Israel’s Military Advocate General's Corps said in an April 11 update that no criminal wrongdoing had been found in 65 cases so far, including the bombing of the Dalu family, which killed six women and four children. In most cases, it said the deaths were the result of unintended damage, operational errors or mistaken identities.

The report said “the regrettable deaths of members of the Al-Dalu family were caused as a result of an attack aimed against a senior terrorist operative.” It said soldiers “had not foreseen that as a result of the attack, collateral damage would be caused to uninvolved civilians to the extent alleged.”

The advocate’s office determined that since the original target was a military one, the incident “does not raise suspicion of the commission of a criminal offense.”

That conclusion differs from a review by Human Rights Watch, which called the bombing a “clear violation of the laws of war.”

The group on Sunday called the Israeli report “grossly insufficient,” given the number of civilian deaths.

“Just calling the fatal consequences of an attack 'unintended' or a 'mistake' does not remotely make the attack lawful,’’ said Human Rights Watch senior researcher Bill Van Esveld. “Given the numerous, well-documented Israeli attacks that killed civilians where there was no evidence of Palestinian military targets in the area, the IDF’s unsupported assertion that the worst attacks were just innocent mistakes is completely inadequate.”

The Israeli report also exonerated its military in the Nov. 14 killing of an 11-month-old Gaza baby and two adult relatives, who were killed when a projectile set their home on fire.

“It was concluded that this death was not a result of an IDF action,” the advocate report said, offering no further details.

Last month, the U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights said the three Gazans were probably killed by an errant Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.

Hamas officials and Misharawi family members still blame Israel for the attack.

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