4 February 2009
IDF Investigation Regarding Incident at the Residence of Dr. Abu El-Eish
The IDF held a thorough investigation regarding the incident that occurred at the residence of Dr. Az A-Din Abu El-Eish, on Friday, January 16, 2009, in which three of the doctor’s daughters were killed. As per the results of the investigation, the IDF has concluded that two shells were fired from an IDF tank, resulting in the aforementioned deaths.
The investigation found that a force from the Golani Infantry Brigade operated in the area of Sajaiya for several days, during which they were engaged in face to face combat within short range of Hamas terrorist cells. The forces also located tunnels used for ambushing and attacking IDF forces, and identified homes which were booby-trapped.
On that Friday (Jan. 16), the force came under sniper and mortar fire in an area laden with explosives and IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The force identified and located the source of fire from a house adjacent to that of the doctor’s, and in response, opened fire. During this defensive fire, suspicious figures were identified in the upper level of Dr. Abu El-Eish’s house and were thought to be spotters who directed the Hamas sniper and mortar fire. Upon assessing the situation in the field while under heavy fire, the commander of the force gave the order to open fire on the suspicious figures. It is from this fire, that the three daughters of Dr. Az A-Din Abu El-Eish were killed.
Following the opening of fire, screams were heard from the direction of the house, and the IDF immediately halted all fire. Only later was it understood that this was, in fact, the house of Dr. Abu El-Eish. When contact was made with the doctor, the IDF force operated in order to allow for ambulances to evacuate the injured via the Erez Crossing for immediate emergency medical treatment in Israel.
The IDF Spokesperson Unit stresses that in the days leading up to the incident, Dr. Abu El-Eish was contacted personally several times by officers in the Coordination and Liaison Administration in order to urge the doctor to evacuate his home, as many others already had, because of Hamas operations and the intense fighting that was already taking place in that area for several days.
The IDF Spokesperson Unit also emphasizes that in addition to the personal contact made directly with Dr. El-Eish, the IDF issued warnings to the residents of Sajaiya by dropping thousands of leaflets as well as issuing warnings via Palestinian media outlets.
The investigation of the incident was conducted by commanders of the forces in the area, as well as the division commander, and was approved by GOC Southern Command and the Head of the IDF Operations Branch (both with the rank of Major General). The IDF is saddened by the harm caused to the Abu El-Eish family, but maintains that considering the constraints of the battle scene, the threats that endangered the forces in the area, and the intensity of fighting in the area, that the forces’ action and the decision to fire towards the building were reasonable.
The investigation’s results were presented yesterday to the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and received his approval.