Israel says it will probe civilian casualties in Gaza

November 16, 2019

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PALESTINIANS try to avoid tear gas during a protest against Jewish settlements near Hebron, in occupied West Bank, on Friday. The protesters were taking part in a demonstration against the expropriation of Arab land by Israel.—Reuters
PALESTINIANS try to avoid tear gas during a protest against Jewish settlements near Hebron, in occupied West Bank, on Friday. The protesters were taking part in a demonstration against the expropriation of Arab land by Israel.—Reuters

GAZA CITY: Israel’s military pledged on Friday to investigate unexpected civilian casualties in a strike targeting Islamic Jihad in Gaza, where a ceasefire agreement remained fragile after fighting left 34 Palestinians dead.

Underscoring the frailty of the truce, a volley of rockets was fired from the coastal strip into the Jewish state after the deal officially took effect on Thursday morning.

Israel hit back with strikes early on Friday against Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful Pales­t­inian militant group in Gaza after Hamas which runs the enclave.

Hours before the ceasefire was due to begin on Thurs­day, Israel hit the family home of Rasmi Abu Malhous, who it described as an Islamic Jihad commander.

The strike — in Deir al-Balah, in Gaza — killed Abu Malhous, his two wives and five children, according to the Palestinian health ministry in the strip.

Islamic Jihad said Malhous was “known as a person affiliated with Islamic Jihad but he was not a commander”.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus claimed the target, “like many others, had the tactic of hiding ammunition and military infrastructure in their own residence”.

The army acknowledged civilian casualties but said they were unanticipated.

“According to the information available to the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) at the time of the strike, no civilians were expected to be harmed,” it said on Friday.

“The IDF is investigating the harm caused to civilians by the strike,” it said in a statement.

Survivors of the strike targeting Abu Malhous, including more of his children, were taken to a local hospital. “They are innocents and they will have only painful memories. It will take time for them to recover,” Eid Abu Malhous, a relative who tried to comfort survivors, said.

The latest round of fighting began on Tuesday when an Israeli strike killed a top Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, and his wife and brought a wave of rocket fire into Israel in response.

Israel claimed that he had been the brains behind many operations against the Jewish state. Although smaller than Hamas, Islamic Jihad is considered more radical.

Following his death Islamic Jihad launched more than 450 rockets into Israel, causing injuries and property damage but no deaths.

The barrage set air raid sirens wailing and sent Israelis rushing to bomb shelters in the country’s south and central regions, including the economic capital, Tel Aviv.

One rocket narrowly missed speeding cars on a busy highway.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2019