By BERNIE BELLAN
(Posted March 31)
We received an email from an online subscriber who had read the story about Dr. Abueliash in this week’s issue of the JP&N. The reader, who asked that his name be witheld, sent more information about the incident involving the deaths of Dr. Abuelaish’s three daughters and his niece.
When you read this you will no doubt be left wondering why Dr. Abueliaish insisted on remaining in his house, despite repeated warnings from Isaeli army officials that his house lay directly in an area that was being used by Hamas to fire upon Israeli soldiers.
Here is what the e-mail contained (in part):
“The terrible tragedy of the Abuelish family is without question!! This is a good and decent physician and I am sure Canadian patients have benefited from him being here. But, after reading his book several years ago, I needed to know more about the exact details .
“As you know the IDF Military Advocate General’s Office and others review, analyze, and publicly report, in quite some detail, all operations of this nature and even further, investigate all complaints and incidents like the Abuelish one. I doubt there is another army in the world who is as complete.
“Here is the link to the July 2009 report — http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA_Graphics/MFA%20Gallery/Documents/GazaOperation%20w%20Links.pdf
“The entire report is worth a read, but especially the section on the the Abuelish incident. I draw your attention to pp 142-143 of the report (subsection “(iii) The House of Dr. Abu el Eish: 17 January 2009″, paragraphs 392-397). There is more to this story. It provides a detailed description of the events leading up to and surrounding this awful tragedy. The question must be asked, why Dr. Abueleish did not remove his family from this obviously very unstable and high risk area when advised to by the IDF??”
I did go to the relevant section of the IDF Military Advocate General’s Office,
Here is what it had to say about the incident involving Dr. Abuelaish in January, 2009:
THE OPERATION IN GAZA: FACTUAL AND LEGAL ASPECTS
(iii) The House of Dr. Abu el Eish: 17 January 2009
392. The IDF thoroughly investigated this incident, in which the doctor‘s three daughters were killed. The investigation concluded that an IDF tank fired two shells, which resulted in these unfortunate casualties.
393. The investigation found that the IDF force 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 units. The IDF forces discovered tunnels used for ambushing and attacking IDF forces, and identified homes that were booby-trapped.
394. On Friday, 16 January 2009, the IDF force came under sniper and mortar fire in an area laden with explosives and IEDs. The IDF force identified and located the source of fire as a house adjacent to that of the doctor‘s. The IDF returned fire and then saw several figures moving suspiciously in the upper level of a house nearby, which was in fact, Dr. Abu El-Eish‘s house. The IDF troops concluded that these figures were spotters directing the arms fire of the snipers. Hamas had used this method of target location throughout the Gaza Operation. Still, under heavy fire, the commander of the force waited about 20 minutes in an effort to ensure that the suspicious figures were in fact Hamas operatives, and that civilians would not be at risk before ordering the attack on the house. Only then did he give the order to open fire on the presumed spotters.
395. Following the firing of shots, the IDF soldiers heard screams from the direction of the house, and immediately halted all fire. When contact was made with the doctor, the IDF force made sure that ambulances could evacuate the injured via the Erez Crossing for immediate emergency medical treatment in Israel.
396. In the days leading up to the incident, officers in the Coordination and Liaison Administration had contacted Dr. Abu El-Eish several times to urge him to temporarily evacuate his home, as many others in the neighbourhood already had, because of Hamas operations and the intense fighting that was already taking place in that area for several days. In addition to the personal contact made directly with Dr. Abu 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. Dr. Abu El-Eish chose to remain in the house, with his family, despite the specific personal warnings he received and the evident risks associated with Hamas sniper activity from the adjacent building.
397. The IDF regrets the tragic deaths of Dr. Abu El-Eish‘s daughters. However, considering the constraints of the battle scene, the threats endangering IDF forces and the reasonable estimation of the forces that the house was being used to direct sniper fire, the decision to target the building was intended only to respond to a perceived threat, and in no way breached the Law of Armed Conflict.