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14 Apr, 2013 17:58

Israel not to probe ‘unfortunate’ killing of 10 members of Gaza family

Israel not to probe ‘unfortunate’ killing of 10 members of Gaza family

The Israeli Military’s legal arm has decided not to open a criminal probe into the deaths of 10 members of the Palestinian al-Dalou family killed in the IDF’s air-strike on their home during the Gaza war last year.

The airstrike on the al-Dalou home “does not raise suspicion of the commission of a criminal offense and that the unfortunate result occurred despite the efforts made to minimize the collateral damage to uninvolved civilians,” the IDF Military Advocate General's (MAG) Corps stated, after examining the claims of alleged violations by the Israeli military during the November offensive on Gaza.

The MAG decided that there was no basis to open a criminal investigation or to take any additional measures,” the report published on the IDF website reads.

On November 18, during the eight-day deadly confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants, an Israeli warplane bombed the home of the al-Dalou family in Al-Nasser neighborhood, central Gaza City.

The attack turned the three-storey home into rubble, killing ten members of the household, including five women and four children. Two more civilians from the family living next door were also killed in the attack. 

Palestinian men gather around a crater caused by an Israeli air strike on the al-Dallu family's home in Gaza City on November 18, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marco Longari)

Shortly after the strike, Israel’s chief military spokesperson Yoav Mordechai said that the intended target was the home of Yahia Rabia - reportedly the head of Hamas' rocket unit. “Although I don't know the outcome, there were civilians harmed by this,” Mordechai said, as cited by Reuters.

However, several days later, the Israeli military stated that one of the Al-Dalou family – 29-year-old Gaza police officer Mohamed Jamal – was the target of the raid.

The father was a known terror operative affiliated with the military wing of Hamas," army spokeswoman Avital Leibovich told AFP on November 27. “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.”

Adding even more controversy to the story, Leibovich later denied she had identified Muhammad al-Dalou as the target.

What I said is that the targets we picked were not innocent civilians,” she told Maan News Agency, refusing to comment on who exactly was targeted and whether the person was killed. 

The controversial raid attracted wide media attention and sparked criticism from rights organizations.

Palestinian men carry the dead bodies of children from the al-Dallu family out from the rubble after an Israeli missile struck a family home killing at least seven members of the same family in Gaza City on November 18, 2012. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Human Rights Watch labeled the air strike as “a clear violation of the laws of war” adding that Israel provided no information to support the claim that Mohamed Al-Dalou was directly participating in hostilities. The organization urged Israel to investigate “disproportionate attacks.”

United Nations Human Rights Council also said in its annual report that Israel actions were not in line with the law.

Even if one member of the Al-Dalou family was affiliated with an armed group, and therefore potentially a legitimate military target, an attack under the given circumstances with the large number of civilians present, would not meet the requirement of proportionality, i.e., the anticipated concrete and direct military gain from the attack would not outweigh the anticipated civilian loss,” the document says.

Israel’s MAG though justifies the IDF action, saying “the attack against the terrorists, who constituted a military target, was aimed to reduce the scope of missile and rocket launchings towards Israel.”

The Commission found that various precautions had been taken in order to reduce the possibility of collateral damage to uninvolved civilians in the course of the attack, including the choice of ammunition used, and that the operations staff had not foreseen that as a result of the attack, collateral damage would be caused to uninvolved civilians to the extent alleged,” it stated.

The MAG’s report on the findings of its examination does not provide names of the people targeted during the deadly Gaza incident in November.

Israeli legal system provides only ‘illusion of justice’

The Al-Dalou family case is not the only one that has been dismissed by Israeli military investigators, Gisela Schmidt Martin Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) told RT.

Since January, 14 civil cases which the PCHR had submitted on behalf the victims of the 2008-2009 armed conflict in the Gaza Strip have also been dismissed, she said.  

We are facing an ongoing impunity” for both the November 2012 offensive and for the three-week Gaza war, known as operation Cast Lead in Israel, four years ago, the expert pointed out.

There have been a number of changes to the Israeli legal system, which have made it practically impossible for Palestinian victims to achieve any form of justice,” she stated.

In July last year, the Israeli government approved amendments to the Torts Law, which “basically exempts the State of Israel from any liability arising from any damage caused during a combat action,” Gisela Schmidt said. The definition of such a military operation in Israeli law “is extremely broad and open to a wide interpretation,” she pointed out. “It can even be the case when a soldier claims that he was in fear for his life.”  

The PCHR called Israel's decision “a mockery of victims’ rights and international law.” The only way to achieve justice for Palestinian victims in the situation when “the Israeli legal system is providing an illusion of justice” is to go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the organization believes.

We are calling on the Palestinian leadership to sign and ratify the Rome Statute, become a member of the ICC and ask the prosecutor to open an investigation into Israeli violations of international Human Rights and Humanitarian Law,” the rights advocate concluded.