Israeli military closes investigation into deaths of 21 family members (CNN) Cable News Network) By Kareem Khadder CAIRO, EGYPT 05/02/12)
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Cairo (CNN) -- Israeli military investigatorshave ordered an end to a
probe into the deaths of 21 members of a Palestinian family during
the 2009 military offensive on Gaza, saying there was "no war crime
The al-Samouni family members and others died when a shell hit a
Palestinian residential building. It was one of the most
controversial incidents of the offensive.
One of the surviving family members, Maysa al-Samouni, told CNN in
January 2009 that her family and other families were ordered by
Israeli soldiers to move from one house to another until dozens were
cramped in one building, which then came under fire.
"The first bomb wounded three and killed one," she said. "We called
for ambulances, and then another bomb hit and lots of people -- at
least 30 -- were killed, including my husband, mother-in-law, and
Other witnesses CNN spoke to at the time said Israeli soldiers were
in the area and it wasn´t until the following day medics were allowed
in to evacuate the wounded and the dead.
The Israeli human rights group B´Tsalem and the Palestinian Center
for Human Rights had filed separate complaints alleging war crimes
and demanding a proper, transparent and independent investigation
into the incident.
In a letter to B´Tsalem on Tuesday, the Military Advocate General
said that after investigating, "we found the accusations are
The investigators "found that none of the involved soldiers or
officers acted in a negligent manner," and "ordered the closure of
the file," the letter said. But it added that the military is making
changes to "ensure that such events will not happen again."
Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for B´Tsalem, told CNN that the
organization is seeking details of the investigation.
"The army should not be investigating itself," Michaeli said. "There
should be an internal Israeli body external to that of the military
looking into these kinds of suspicions."
She said the group wants to see "if this investigation adhered to
international standard applied to this type of the investigation. One
of the standards of the investigation (is) it has to be timely. We
can say already that it did not adhere to that standard because the
investigation was opened very late."
Israel launched the 23-day Operation Cast Lead in late December 2008,
resulting in the reported deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians and
13 Israelis. The offensive was aimed at curbing what Israel described
as the firing of rockets into southern Israel by militants in Gaza.
United Nations´ Human Rights Council commissioned a team, led by
jurist Richard Goldstone, to look into allegations of war crimes
during the operation, and it issued a detailed report concluding that
both Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group controlling Gaza, had
committed crimes against humanity.
Statements from witnesses also were collected by the Israeli and
Palestinian human rights groups.
B´Tsalem said one witness reported that "more than 100 residents of
the Al-Zeitoun neighbourhood in Gaza were ordered by the Israeli
military, who raided the neighborhood then, to stay in one house."
"A day later the house was shelled by the Israeli military, which
resulted in the collapse of the entire house and the immediate
killing of more than 20 members of the al-Samouni family," B´Tsalem
said. (© 2012 Cable News Network 05/02/12)
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