Israeli army admits error over deadly Gaza attack

Israeli army admits error over deadly Gaza attack that killed eight members of a family
3 min read
25 December, 2019
Nine members of the same family were killed by an Israeli airstrike last month due to a faulty assessment of the risk to civilians, the Israeli army said.
The airstrike killed eight members of the Sarawka family [Getty]
The Israeli army admitted on Tuesday that a strike in Gaza that killed nine members of the same family had been due to a faulty assessment of the risk to civilians.

The November 14 airstrike targeted the home of Rasmi Abu Malhous, described by Israel as a commander in Islamic Jihad, the militant Palestinian movement against which Israel had launched a three-day campaign.

He and eight members of his family were killed by the attack, including five children.

An Israeli army spokesman, Avichay Adraee, justified the attack at the time saying 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.

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 statement from the army said that intelligence collected ahead of the attack had indicated that the residence "was designated as an Islamic Jihad terror organisation military compound".

The army had "estimated" that "civilians would not be harmed as a result of an attack" on the site, which was not believed to be accessible to members of the public.

An army inquiry later found "that even though military activity was conducted in the compound, it was not a closed compound, and in reality civilians were present there," it said.

The army said it would learn from its "mistakes" to reduce "the recurrence of similar irregular events." 

It stressed it had made "considerable efforts... to reduce the damage to non-combatants".

The military report also blamed Islamic Jihad for exploiting and endangering non-combatants "by placing its military assets in the heart of the civilian population and by deliberately acting from within densely populated civilian areas."  

The three-day flareup began when Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza on November 12.

The Islamist group, which is closely allied with Gaza's rulers Hamas, responded by firing more than 450 rockets at Israel.

During the confrontation, Israeli forces attacked dozens of targets in the enclave.

Palestinian officials said 35 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded. There were no Israeli fatalities.

In its Tuesday report, the Israeli army said its November operation had been a success, dealing a blow to Islamic Jihad and serving to increase the security of Israeli civilians and help prevent "a wider military campaign."

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