Da Ha'aretz del 22/06/2006
Originale su http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?itemNo=729849

Botched IAF strike kills 2 civilians in Gaza

di Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff

Two Palestinian civilians were killed and 13 other members of the same family were wounded in an Israel Air Force strike in the southern Gaza Strip last night.

The attack came one day after three children were killed in an IAF strike in Gaza City that targeted members of Fatah's military wing.

Yesterday's incident is the fourth in one month in which IAF strikes in Gaza have led to the death of 15 Palestinian civilians.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz ordered a thorough investigation last night into the recent string of air strikes in which Palestinian civilians have been killed.

Yesterday's incident occurred at around 6:30 P.M. near the main road connecting Khan Yunis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The air force craft fired two missiles against a pick-up truck carrying members of the Popular Resistance Committee. The missiles missed the vehicle, and struck the house in which the victimized family was preparing to have dinner.

Three children were among those wounded in the strike. Medical personnel in Gaza said the injuries were caused by shrapnel, and that some of the wounded were in critical condition.

The 37-year-old woman killed in the strike, Fatima al-Barbarwi, was seven months pregnant. The other casualty was her brother, Zakariya Ahmed, a 45-year-old doctor living in Saudi Arabia.

Doctors tried to save the woman's seven-month-old fetus but failed, they said.

Palestinian witnesses said a vehicle carrying the militants was the likely target of the attack, and that the explosion occurred as they passed the house. The men inside jumped out of the car and ran into a nearby field.

An IDF spokesman expressed regret at the death of al-Barbarwi. The IAF had fired the missile as the car traveled in a relatively unpopulated area on the outskirts of Khan Yunis to avoid civilian casualties.

"What happened in this case, the missile simply missed," the IDF spokesman said.

A senior IAF officer, speaking on condition of anonymity under military regulations, said the missile missed its target by several dozen meters.

A statement issued by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office harshly condemned the Israeli attacks.

"The increased frequency of women and children falling victim to Israeli missiles, in an age of very precise electronic warfare, indicates Israel's deliberate intention to target every Palestinian and to cause maximum human, physical and psychological damage," it said.

Halutz yesterday ordered IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Elyezer Shkedy to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the string of recent failed strikes.

An initial probe of yesterday's attack revealed that it was caused either by human or technical error.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said yesterday that the IDF has clear instructions to call off an attack if there is a chance that innocent people would be endangered.

Shkedy told Haaretz that the IAF has not found a common denominator among the four incidents in which Palestinian civilians were killed. Initial findings suggest a combination of human error and technical failures, he added.

In last night's incident, the road chosen for the attack was relatively isolated, but the point against which the missiles were fired was problematic, because it was not possible to maintain eye contact between the air vehicle and the target. It is also possible that there was a programming malfunction in the missiles.

"We carry out attacks in the Gaza Strip daily," Shkedy said. "The air operations are nearly the only way to operate in Gaza. The other option is a land operation, and we must do everything possible to avoid that."

"Every strike on civilians is very bad," the air force chief said. "It is troubling on an ethical level, and it also makes it difficult for us to maintain pressure on the terrorist organizations."

Shkedy said that the militants have changed their mode of action, and have begun launching rockets within residential areas to make air attacks against them more difficult.

"Fighting against them (the militants) is becoming more complicated every day," Shkedy said. "But we will continue fighting terror, and that includes air attacks. That is our duty."

The air force chief said that he authorized a small number of senior officers to act as "controllers" in the aerial attacks.

"These are people I trust completely," Shkedy said. "They have enormous experience in such attacks, and we rely on their judgment, even if it turns out that sometimes errors are made."


AL-AQSA BRIGADES: RENEW ATTACKS

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades threatened yesterday to strike at targets throughout Israel following a failed IAF assassination attempt the previous day. The group urged all other militant groups to renew their terror attacks.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militant Daoud Katouni, 20, was killed in an exchange of fire with IDF troops in the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp, adjacent to Nablus, early yesterday. Two other Al-Aqsa militants were wounded in the incident.

IDF troops said they had fired at an armed individual after coming under fire. Twelve wanted Palestinians were detained during the West Bank arrest raid.

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