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Operation Pillar of Defense: The killing of Talal al-‘Asali, 48, his son Ayman, 19, and daughter ‘Abir, 11, of Jabalya R.C., 21 November 2012

Update: On 14 November 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that it would not launch an investigation, explaining that it had been found that the three had been killed owing to an unfortunate combination of circumstances that led IDF troops to believe that the three were members of a firing team. As it was found that the incorrect assessment was a reasonable one and not the result of negligence or criminal intent on the part of the troops involved, a decision was made to close the case.

On 21 November 2012, the last day of Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, at around 1:00 PM, there was an Israeli air strike on an agricultural area located near residential homes in Jabalya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip. The bombing killed Talal al-‘Asali, 48, and two of his six children – his son Ayman, 19, and daughter ‘Abir, 11. According to testimony given to B’Tselem, at the time of the strike, the three were out in the fields collecting herbs for tea. According to testimony collected and additional information obtained by B’Tselem about the incident, no rockets had been fired from that location before the al-‘Asali famly was hit. Relatives said that Talal al-‘Asali grew herbs that he then sold in the market, and that he had no connection to Palestinian armed groups.

The mother of the family, Tamam al-‘Asali, 40, told B’Tselem that on midday on Wednesday, 21 November 2012, the family had eaten lunch together and that, after they finished, her husband Talal asked her to make tea for everyone. Talal went outside to a nearby area that he cultivates to pick some herbs for tea. Two of his children, his son Ayman and daughter ‘Abir came along. This is Tamam al-‘Asali’s account of what happened next:

Tamam al-‘Asali. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, 6 Dec. 2012I began preparing the things for tea when suddenly I heard a powerful explosion from behind the house. I went outside immediately and ran to the place where Talal and the children were. Even before I reached them, I could already see Talal and Ayman lying on the ground, covered in blood. The moment I saw them I started screaming and crying. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I understood that my husband had apparently been killed instantaneously. Ayman was still moving a little bit. I didn’t see my daughter ‘Abir. I felt dizzy and weak. Then, apparently, I passed out.

Tamam al-‘Asali regained consciousness a short time later, at home, surrounded by neighbors and relatives who had come to offer condolences. They told her that her husband and son Ayman had been killed in the bombing. Later, her relatives told her that her daughter ‘Abir had also been killed. Tamam al-‘Asali told B’Tselem:

I was in shock when they told me that ‘Abir had also been killed. I screamed and cried hysterically. Three members of my family killed at one blow. I lost them all in an instant, for no reason. Every time I recall the incident, I am terribly sad and I cry for them.

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.