AP tries to corroborate testimonies of ‘killing’ of Gaza civvies

Posted: March 27, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Gaza, Hamas, Human Rights, IDF, Palestinians, War
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Palestinian terrorists operate tightly within populated areas.

Palestinian terrorists operate tightly within populated areas.

Associated Press reporter has joined a Palestinian researcher, Mohammed Ghannam, to try to corroborate testimonies of two unidentified IDF soldiers, who testified of rumors of two cases of killing Palestinian civilians without reason. Ghannam, researcher for Palestinian Center for Human Rights, reported of finding two cases, which suit the testimonies:

Abir Hijeh told an AP reporter investigating the Israeli soldiers’ accounts that her house came under heavy fire before dawn on Jan. 5, the third day of the Israeli ground offensive, and that her husband, Mohammed, 37, was killed by tank fire.

Moments later, Israeli troops entered the home and ordered Hijeh and her five children, ages 2 to 15, to go next door, where about three dozen people were confined to one room.

About noon, soldiers speaking in broken Arabic told everyone except the young men to leave and head to the southern town of Rafah. “They said, `Go to Rafah. If you go to Gaza City, you’ll be shot, if you go to Rafah, you won’t,'” she said.

However, when they reached a T-junction, the eldest in the group decided to swing left, toward Gaza City, to check on his brother, who lived about 20 yards up the road, before turning toward Rafah. Everyone, including Hijeh and her children, followed.

Retracing the family’s steps with an AP reporter this week, Hijeh, 33, said they had walked just a few yards in the direction of Gaza City when soldiers fired warning shots at their feet.

“They told us `Go to Rafah’ and we raised our hands, all of us, the children and elderly,” she said. “We turned our backs to head to Rafah and then the Israeli army began shooting heavily.”

Most in the group ran into a courtyard for cover, but Hijeh was carrying her 2-year-old daughter, Shahed, and could not keep up. She was struck by a bullet and the toddler was also hit. Hijeh said the shots were fired from a commandeered house belonging to the Abu Zor family 50 yards away.

She made it to the courtyard, where she said she saw her neighbor, Ola Arafat, on the ground. Hospital officials said the woman died several days later.

Hijeh said her daughter was still alive, so the group started walking, eventually finding taxis to take them south. The little girl was dead by the time they reached a hospital, she said.

The second alleged killing, described by the soldier identified as Aviv, involved an elderly woman seen walking in the street. He said he was told that the company commander ordered troops onto the roof, along with snipers, “to take her down.”

The soldiers said they had been warned to be wary of potential suicide bombers and that anyone approaching their posts could pose a danger. However, some soldiers said they rarely came under fire from Hamas gunmen.

Ghannam and another researcher, Mohamad Abu Rahma of the Al Haq group, said they believe the woman was Mahdiyeh Ayyad, who was in her 70s. After Israeli forces withdrew, the woman’s body was found on a dirt road, near what had been an army position, her relatives said.

She had been shot, according to Ghannam, but relatives acknowledged no one witnessed the shooting.

At this moment, both cases are under IDF investigation.

Another thing, important to point out, is that in many cases Palestinian terrorists use civilians as human shields, thus it is a viable option that in both cases civilians were shot during firefight between Hamas and IDF. It is also possible that Palestinians terrorists shot the civilians, as with case of Mohammad al-Durah.

It is important, however, that IDF investigators get to the bottom of this. If IDF soldiers shot unarmed civilians when it could be avoided, they should be prosecuted and jailed.

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