Update: On 14 November 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that it would not launch a criminal investigation of the incident and its circumstances, explaining as follows: “The case was closed after it could not be determined from all of the findings gathered that the deaths of the two members of the Abu Sa’ifan family were the result of IDF activity. It was however found that in the same region, at the same time, there was an IDF strike aimed at a rocket-launching pit belonging to Hamas terrorist organization. In view of the fact that the strike was aimed at a clearly military target, and that the strike against the target was proportionate and carried out with the necessary precautions, no justification was found to launch an MPIU investigation of the incident.”
Testimonies taken by B’Tselem indicate that in the early morning hours of Sunday, 18 November 2012, an Israeli aircraft fired at the ground next to the Sa’ifan family home in the Tall a-Za’tar neighborhood. At the time, Salameh Sa’ifan, his wife and children, four-year-old Tammer and two-year-old Jomanah, were sleeping in their room, which had a tin roof, located on the roof of the house. The house is at the edge of Tel a-Za’tar on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya, and about 300 meters away there is an olive orchard. The explosion created a huge, gaping hole near the house, and the room where Salameh and his family were sleeping collapsed completely.
In testimony Salameh gave by telephone to a B’Tselem researcher, he described what happened that night: “We were awakened by the noise of an explosion next to our house. The ceiling and the walls were blown apart and everything fell on us. I didn’t really understand what was happening around me. I was covered with debris and barely breathing. Only my head was above the debris. At that moment, I thought only of my small children. I began screaming and calling for help. My wife managed to climb out of the debris, and she also started shouting for help. My brothers got there and began pulling the debris off me. It took them half an hour to extract me. I asked them about my children and asked them to rescue them. They were underneath the ruins. They were able to get the children out. They were covered with dust, not moving and not breathing. They picked them up and ran out to get them to a hospital.”
Testimony given by Salameh Sa’ifan’s brothers, Wael and Ahmad, reveals that while evacuating the children, they had to get past a large crater in the ground to get to the ambulance waiting on the other side. The children were evacuated to al ‘Awdah Hospital in Tel a-Za’tar, where Tammer was pronounced dead. Jomanah was taken to a-Shifaa Hospital in Gaza City in a serious condition, and died there of her injuries.
Salameh Sa’ifan testified further: “I lost the only two children I have and have no one left in the world. I have no words to describe my situation. Only God knows the heartbreak felt by a father and mother when they lose their children.”
B’Tselem is continuing to investigate the circumstances of the incident in which Tammer and Jomanah Sa’ifan were killed.