Aerial photographs of the Israeli Defense Force's (IDF) bombardment of armed men in Beit Hanoun in Gaza last Monday show that Maseir Abu Muatak and her four children were evidently killed by a secondary explosion of explosive materials of a terrorist rather than by an IDF tank shell, as the Palestinians claimed. These are the conclusions of an inquiry that the army held after the tragic incident. The investigative team, led by Col. Shai Alkalai of the Artillery Corps, submitted the final report last week to OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant.
On the day of the attack, Israel’s crack Givati Brigade troops were operating in the Izbath neighborhood in Beit Hanoun to arrest wanted men, locate tunnels and find arms smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the Philadelphi Road tunnels. At the same time, the mother and her children were eating at their home. Tanks from the 401st Brigade operated together with infantry troops.
The report indicates that ground and air force troops identified the four terrorists who fired on IDF troops as they were carrying weapons on their backs. Aircraft fired a missile at the terrorists and struck one of them directly. The missile strike caused a larger secondary explosion that was caused by the weapon used against the terrorist. The aircraft engaged in another attack on an additional terrorist who was evidently also carrying weapons. There was a direct hit in this case as well. According to the report's conclusions, no firing was carried out in the location except for the firing of the air force missiles. The report also determined that the family was struck by the second explosion - which resulted from the shockwave of the explosion of the first missile and the weapons that the terrorist was carrying - or by a projectile resulting of the explosion.
An officer in the IDF's Gaza Division told the Israeli media that "no one could have predicted the size of the explosion from the backpacks that the terrorists were carrying, just as there is no way to estimate the force of the explosion of a car carrying Kassam rockets in the heart of an inhabited area. "We need to carry out risk management and realize that if we don't hit the car and the terrorists, the end result will be the firing of a rocket at Sderot or harm to IDF troops. If the terrorists in Beit Hanoun had planted bombs for Givati Brigade troops and soldiers had been killed as a result, what would they say then? This sanctimoniousness needs to stop. We didn't choose to fight inside inhabited areas. With all the regret, no one can promise that it won't happen again."
The IDF inquiry that refuted the charges that the family in Gaza was killed by gunfire from Israeli troops was based, among other things, upon footage filmed by a Palestinian television crew that strengthened the Israeli position.
The IDFs’ comprehensive inquiry was also reliant on footage filmed by a Palestinian television crew who was filming for Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, the PBC, the official Palestinian television network, shortly after the attack, which showed that the family had not been sitting indoors but rather in a yard outside. According to the PBC footage, it appears that the iron gate of the yard was wrenched from its place in the explosion and struck the family. It is possible that this is one of the causes of the family members’ deaths.
On the basis of the PBC footage, in addition to the footage filmed by an IDF drone, they proved that the mother and her four children were not struck by IDF gunfire. A high-ranking army official who was involved in the investigation said yesterday that only after the debriefing and viewing of the PBC footage did it become clear how the family members had been hit. The PBC footage ruled out the possibility that the family was harmed by other gunfire, since this was the only incident in which gunfire occurred in the area in question.