Red-eyed from fighting back his tears, a Palestinian doctor is demanding an apology from Israel for the deaths of three of his daughters -- and a niece -- when their home was shelled by Israeli forces in 2009.
A day before the start of a long-delayed hearing in an Israeli court, Dr. Izzedin Abuelaish told reporters on Tuesday that he wanted Israel to “show courage and take responsibility."
Having initially accepted responsibility for the shelling of his home during Israel’s 2008/09 “Operation Cast Lead”, Israeli daily Haaretz reported Tuesday that the state is now saying the deaths were caused by ammunition that was stored in the building.
Abuelaish called the claims "insane", pointing out that investigators from human rights groups had confirmed after the conflict that explosive material found at the site was Israeli in origin.
"Each of them [his daughters] was planning her life. Mayar wanted to be a medical doctor; Rafah wanted to be a lawyer; Bessan wanted to do her graduate education," he said.
He insisted that he still had faith that justice might be carried out through the Israeli court system, saying it could be a "turning point" for the Israeli state to apologize for the killing of innocent civilians.
But he vowed to take further steps if it did not.
Abuelaish said the money from any compensation he might receive would go towards setting up schools run by his “Daughters for Life” charity in Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Afghanistan and Canada, where he lives with his surviving children.
His oldest surviving daughter, Shatha, began crying as Abuelaish described how she had studied for her exams by candlelight during the conflict -- despite being injured -- and getting a near perfect score.
"I am angry because we have to fight for this," she said. "The victim has to ask for justice."
Abuelaish said he first took action against the Israeli state in 2010, but that the case had been awaiting a hearing ever since.
Last week, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem published a report criticizing Israel's stance on paying compensation to Palestinian victims of conflict, saying Israeli law had been expanded to give the armed forces a "blanket exemption" despite prior commitments laid down by international law.(Anadolu)