Monday, July 6, 2009

Israel's military backtracks, admits to killing Gaza girl

Date: 02 / 07 / 2009 Time: 19:27

Gaza – Ma’an – Israel's military just after midnight on Friday admitted responsibility for the death of a teenage girl in Gaza.

The announcement came following its insistence Thursday that the girl's death was the result of Palestinian friendly fire.

The teenager was killed and her brother injured by Israeli shelling in the area, medics had told Ma'an moments after the incident.

Shortly thereafter, Israel's military insisted it had nothing to do with the girl's death, according to a spokesperson quoted in Israeli news reports, adding that its soldiers acted appropriately and professionally.

Nevertheless, just after midnight on Friday the Israeli news agency Ynet, quoting army officials, reported that a probe into the clash ultimately showed that the 17-year-old Palestinian girl was killed by the country's military.

"The debriefing continues and it's too early to draw final conclusions," an Israeli military official reportedly told the news agency. He added that the investigation revealed that "the Palestinian civilians were mistakenly hit by IDF [Israel Defense Forces] fire."

After Israel's military earlier denied responsibility for the incident, it placed the blame squarely on Palestinian fighters, who for their part insisted they did not possess weaponry capable of destroying an entire home, as happened on Thursday.

Hours before that, an Israeli military spokesperson said that no one on either side had even been injured in the cross-border incursion into the Gaza Strip, but soon backtracked on that claim late Thursday evening when the victim's name was released.

Medical sources at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in the Gaza Strip identified the slain girl as Hiam Abu A'yesh, 17, and reported that her 24-year-old brother Husam was also injured by shrapnel from an Israeli shell that struck the family's home in the Juhor Ad-Dik neighborhood in the Strip.

Sources at the hospital in central Gaza added that more Palestinians were presumed to have been hurt in the attack, while other news reports placed the exact figure at 11.

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters had been reported earlier in the area on Thursday evening, and the Israeli military reported that it had "returned fire" near the Nahal Oz border crossing, but had denied it used tank shells, which had previously been claimed.

Other Israeli reports quoted Palestinians as saying clashes had been witnessed at Bureij Refugee Camp, while exchanges of gunfire were also reported following an alleged attempt to detonate a roadside bomb near a military jeep traveling inside Gaza, according to Israel's military.

No factions immediately claimed responsibility for involvement in Thursday's clashes.

***Updated 3 July 2009, 01:49 Gaza time