An Israeli court yesterday ruled against a Palestinian from Gaza whose three daughters were killed by the Israeli army during its 2008 war on the Strip, denying Israel's responsibility for their deaths.
Izzeldin Abuelaish, a 63-year-old doctor from Jabalia in the north of the Gaza Strip, lost three daughters and a niece during Israel's 2008-2009 war on the besieged enclave. His story was made famous after he discovered his children had been killed while speaking to an Israeli TV channel, with his suffering broadcast live across the country and later shared widely around the world.
Yet Israel's Beersheba District Court yesterday ruled that Israel bore no responsibility for the deaths of the four girls, instead blaming "terror groups [for] fighting from within a civilian population and storing weapons in the building where they died," the Times of Israel reported.
Israeli Justice Shlomo Friedlander said in yesterday's ruling that Israeli shells hit Abuelaish's home because "figures on the roof were suspected of acting as lookouts for terror groups and directing fire at IDF forces". Friedlander continued:
"It is regrettable that the four children who were not involved in the fighting lost their lives. However, this is a very unfortunate side effect of the criminal practice of the terrorist organizations fight[ing] Israel out of a civilian population."
In the whirlwind of war mistakes and incidents are expected. When the war is carried out of a civilian population, the mistakes may harm the lives of civilians, as unfortunately happened in our case.
Abuelaish's lawsuit claimed that there was no fighting in the area at the time of the attack on his home, meaning there was no military rationale for it being targeted. His legal team claimed Israel's shelling was, therefore, a war crime.
Abuelaish's daughters – 13-year-old Bessan, 15-year-old Mayar and 20-year-old Aya – as well as his 14-year-old niece Noor, were among 1,390 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during Israel's 22-day war, dubbed "Operation Cast Lead". Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem estimates that more than half of those killed were civilians.
In an interview with MEMO in 2017, Abuelaish stressed:
I will never accept my daughters as just numbers – it is wrong to call them collateral damage. They are human beings. They have faces. They have names.
Abuelaish explained that, before pursuing a court case, he had tried for many years to get the Israeli government to take responsibility for the death of his daughters. Having worked as an infertility specialist at Tel Hashomer hospital outside Tel Aviv, he tried to use his connections in Israel to achieve recognition of Israel's guilt, but to no avail. "My efforts fell on deaf ears so I was obliged to pursue this through the courts," he added.
Yesterday's decision will come as a severe blow to his hopes of receiving any recognition of Israel's culpability for his daughters' deaths. It is not yet clear where Abuelaish will proceed from here or whether he will be able to appeal the court's ruling.
Abuelaish had intended to donate any compensation granted by the Israeli court to the Daughters for Life Foundation, a charity he founded in honour of his daughters which supports the education of girls from the Middle East, including both Israelis and Palestinians and all religious denominations.