Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza) filed an appeal on 9 January 2017 against the decision by Israel's Military Advocate General (MAG) to refrain from conducting a criminal investigation into an August 2014 Israeli missile attack that killed an entire family during Israel's "Operation Protective Edge" in the Gaza Strip.
On the night of 22 August 2014, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a home belonging to the Abu Dahrouj family in central Gaza. The Israeli missile strike killed five family members: father Hayel Shehda Abed-Rabbo Abu Dahrouj, 28; mother, Huda Mohammed Khamis Abu Dahrouj, 27; their children Abdel Hadi Hayel Shehda Abu Dahrouj, 2, and Abdullah Hayel Shehda Abu Dahrouj, 3; and the father's aunt, Hayat Abed-Rabbo Suleiman Abu Dahrouj, 49. In addition, the air strike wounded multiple civilians, including Shehda Abed-Rabbo Abu Dahrouj, 67, Mohammed Suleiman Abu Dahrouj, 11, Abdel Hamid Suleiman Abu Dahrouj, 9, and caused extensive damage to neighboring homes.
The MAG recognized that the missile attack was carried out directly on a civilian residence but claimed that the intended target was a weapons warehouse located in an open area at a distance of approximately 100 meters from the Abu Dahrouj family home.
According to a statement issued by the MAG, "for an unclear reason – likely an unexpected technical malfunction – the fired ordnance hit a structure at some distance from the target."
Adalah and Al Mezan filed the appeal on behalf of the Abu Dahrouj family. [CLICK HERE for more photos and information on the Abu Dahrouj family]
Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad stressed in her appeal that the details of the Israeli attack strongly suggest violations of conventions governing warfare and therefore obligate the commencement of an independent criminal investigation.
"This incident was characterized by serious violations of both rules forbidding intentional harm to civilians and civilian objects and rules forbidding attacks that do not differentiate between military and civilian targets," Attorney Haddad wrote in the appeal. "This was, for all intents and purposes, either a direct attack against a civilian object and against civilians or, regrettably, an attack that was carried out in a haphazard manner thus constituting a serious violation of international humanitarian law."
The Israeli attack on the Abu Dahrouj family is another example of the negligent manner in which the Israeli military makes decisions and executes attacks in densely-populated civilian areas, particularly before the target is determined to be of a military nature and that no disproportional "collateral damage" will be caused to civilians.
The MAG violated its obligation to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident that lives up to the relevant international standards.
"We cannot ignore the MAG's use of vague phrasing terminology that leads to baseless conclusions lacking any real substance. When discussing the need to examine the legality of the attack, the MAG uses the word 'apparently,' highlighting the ambiguous, hesitant, and indecisive circumstances of the incident. This shows that there was no thorough and independent evaluation conducted that was sufficient to determine whether or not it was necessary to open an investigation."
The appeal also highlighted deep doubts that the military prosecutor conducted even the most basic investigatory steps when considering the incident.
"It seems as if no evidence or testimony was collected from military authorities or from Palestinian witnesses who were at the scene, nor was the 'technical malfunction' that resulted in this tragic result examined, nor were the missiles themselves examined, nor was the question as to why two missiles were fired to begin with ever answered."
The Israeli military refused to provide any of the results of its probe nor to detail the reason for its decision to refuse to open a criminal investigation, claiming that all case materials are classified – in clear contravention of international standards of investigation which dictate independence, impartiality, effectiveness, promptness, and transparency.
Adalah and Al Mezan demand the MAG move to open an independent criminal investigation into the missile strike that killed five members of the Abu Dahrouj family. Like other innocent victims in Gaza, the Abu Dahrouj family have a right to justice and redress that must not be sacrificed for the sake of the Israeli military's persistent insistence on providing a shield of impunity to its personnel and commanders who are involved in such serious violations of international law.
Gaza Two Years On: 27 cases of suspected war crimes, 0 indictments –
Adalah and Al Mezan Appeal Israeli Military’s Decision not to Investigate Civilian Killings near UNRWA School in Gaza in 2014 – http://mezan.org/en/post/21591
Adalah, Al Mezan oppose Israel's rejection of compensation suit resulting from declaration of Gaza as 'enemy territory' – http://mezan.org/en/post/21730