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From the field

4 Jan. '09: The killing of Nizar Rayan and 15 members of his family

On Thursday, 1 Jan. '09, the Israeli air force bombed the house of Nizar Rayan, a senior Hamas official, in the Jabalya refugee camp. The blast killed Rayan, his four wives, and their eleven children, ranging in age from 1-12 years old. According to the army spokesperson, "the house served as a large munitions warehouse and as a war room. Under the house was an escape tunnel for terrorist members of Hamas's military wing."

Even if the army spokesperson's statement is accurate, the large toll of civilian lives renders the attack a grave breach of international humanitarian law. In the current situation in the Gaza Strip, it is hard to think of a definite military advantage that could have been achieved by bombing the house and killing Rayan, that can justify the killing of 13 women and children

According to the media, official sources indicated that the army had warned the family members of their intention to bomb the house, but they refused to leave. Even if true, this does not exempt the army from responsibility for the killing of civilians, given that it knew or should have known that the residents had not left the house and that they would be injured in the blast.