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UN urges Israel to 'swiftly' investigate massacre of family in Gaza

Surviving children from the Sarawka family received treatment in hospital [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2019

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The United Nations has called on Israel to “swiftly” investigate an airstrike which killed eight members of one family, including five children, in Gaza on Thursday morning.
The United Nations has called on Israel to speedily carry out an investigation into a deadly airstrike that killed eight members of the same family, including five children, in the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning.

Farhan Haq, the deputy official spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said, “the Secretary-General expresses his heartfelt condolences to the Al-Sawarka family and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured, and he calls on Israel to move swiftly with the investigation".

“We are opposed to all killings of civilians. In the case of the Sawarka family, it is a clear tragedy,” Haq added. His words were echoed by Nikolay Mladenov, the UN’s envoy to the Middle East.

The Israeli army announced on Friday that it would carry out an investigation into the incident.

The European Union urged Israel to ensure that the investigation it conducts is “transparent”, saying it would “closely follow it”. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said that it would call on the International Criminal Court to look into the incident.

An Israeli airstrike hit the home of the Sawarka family in the town of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Thursday morning, just before a ceasefire went into effect between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement after two days of fighting.

Read more: Why is Israel waging war on Islamic Jihad?

An Israeli army spokesman, Avichay Adraee, justified the attack at the time saying one of family members, Rasmi Abu Malhous Sarawka, was an Islamic Jihad commander.

However, sources in the Israeli army have since told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Rasmi had no links to Islamic Jihad and that Adraee’s information was false.

Five of the dead were children and the bodies of two toddlers were pulled out from under the rubble by rescue workers and taken to a hospital.

The Israeli army later said it made a mistake in targeting the home, saying that it believed it to be empty.

Those killed in the airstrike were identified as Rasmi Abu Malhous Al-Sawarka, aged 45; Mariam Al-Sawarka, also 45; Yusri Al-Sawarka, 39; Mohammed Al-Sawarka, 13; Mohannad Al-Sawarka, 12; and Moad al-Sawarka, 7. The names of the two toddlers killed were not released.

A total of 34 Palestinians were killed and 111 injured in a two-day flare-up in fighting which started after Israel assassinated Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al-Ata.

Israel on Saturday morning carried our further airstrikes on Gaza despite the ceasefire, targeting positions belonging to Hamas.

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