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Operation Pillar of Defense: The killing of 4-year-old Tammer Ise’ifan and his 2-year-old sister Jomanah, Beit Lahiya, 18 November 2012

On 18 November 2012, Israeli military planes attacked the town of Beit Lahiya, in the heart of a densely inhabited residential area. The missile killed 4-year-old Tammer Ise’ifan and his 2-year-old sister Jomanah Ise’ifan. B'Tselem’s investigation found there was an open area about two hundred meters west of their house from which Palestinians had fired rockets at Israel several times during Operation Pillar of Defense, including one time about five hours before the attack on the Ise’ifan home. Some witnesses noted that rockets had also been fired that day from a spot located about 100 meters away from the family's home.

Salameh Ise’ifan at the ruins of his home. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, 22 Nov. 2012Salameh Ise’ifan at the ruins of his home. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, 22 Nov. 2012

The extended Ise’ifan family lives in a house in the Tal a-Za’tar neighborhood at the entrance to Beit Lahiya. The parents live on the first floor with several of their children. Their three married sons live on the second floor with their own children. Salameh and Rida Ise’ifan, Tammer and Jomanah’s parents, lived in one of the second-floor apartments. The couple has no children apart from Tammer and Jomanah. The tin-roofed house, constructed of cement blocks, is located in the heart of a crowded residential area.

During Operation Pillar of Defense, the family lived in a state of perpetual fear. This was the situation as described by Rida Ise’ifan, Tammer and Jomanah’s mother:

Rida Ise’ifan. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 15 Jan. 2013Since the war started we’ve been living in our rooms. We heard open areas at Tel a-Za’tar, which is about 200 meters behind and west of our house, being bombed. From this hill, local rockets were fired at communities in Israel. We didn’t leave our apartment because we were frightened for ourselves and our children. Some of the time we had no electricity, especially at night. When there was no electricity and we huddled around a candle or a flashlight, we were even more frightened. It was also very cold. Jomanah and Tammer were frightened and they cried when they heard bombings. They kept close to me and their father and slept in our room.

According to testimonies collected by B'Tselem, on Saturday, 17 November 2012, Rida Ise’ifan took her children to visit her parents in the nearby Jabalya Refugee Camp. The three returned home in the afternoon. Then, in the evening, the children had supper and watched cartoons on television. At 9:00 PM, the children went to bed. Their parents retired about two hours later. At around 2:00 AM on 18 November 2012, when the whole family was asleep, a missile struck near their house, causing the ceiling and the walls to collapse. Members of the extended family living nearby came to the scene immediately. They extracted the father, Salameh Ise’ifan, who had been trapped underneath the debris, and his two children. Later that night at the hospital, both children were pronounced dead. Following is what their mother related to B’Tselem about two months after the incident:

Tammer Ise’ifan, 4-year-old. Family photoI lost both my children at once, with no reason or warning, for no fault of their own. They were just sleeping and there was no reason to kill them. Since that day, I've been crying for them. Every time I see their clothing and things and every time I hear the voices of my little brothers-in-law, I am reminded of Jomanah and Tammer. When I go to bed, I weep for them. They were my only children and I have nothing else apart from them… We had a happy life, my children were here by my side and they were the world to me and my husband Salameh. They were more precious to me than anything in the world.

On 11 April 2013 the Office of the Military Advocate for Operational Matters informed B’Tselem that the investigation of the complaint has not yet been completed.