UN report blaming Hamas for killing baby is ‘rubbish,’ bereaved father says

Days after UN clears Israel in death of BBC Gaza man’s child during Pillar of Defense, broadcaster raises doubts about report’s accuracy

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Jihad Mishrawi speaks to the media, while carrying the body of his son Omar, on November 15, 2012. (photo credit: screenshot BBC)
Jihad Mishrawi speaks to the media, while carrying the body of his son Omar, on November 15, 2012. (photo credit: screenshot BBC)

Days after a United Nations report seemed to have cleared Israel in the death of a baby during Operation Pillar of Defense last winter, suggesting that Hamas was responsible for the tragedy, the bereaved father dismissed the finding as “rubbish.”

According to the BBC, UN officials also said they were not completely certain that the baby died because of a misfired Palestinian rocket aimed at Israel — as last week’s UN report indicated — and that the explosion in the family’s house could have been the result of a “secondary explosion” that followed an Israeli air strike.

On November 14, 11-month-old Omar al-Mishrawi and Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Mishrawi, 19, were killed by shrapnel, widely reported to have been the result of an Israeli airstrike on the family’s home in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. The death of Omar, the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad al-Mishrawi, garnered more than usual media attention and focused anger for the death on Israel, which was initially blamed.

In the wake of this incident and others during which Palestinian civilians were hurt, several human rights groups accused Israel of conducting its airstrikes without sufficient regard for civilians living in Gaza.

Images of the bereaved father tearfully holding the corpse of his 11-month-old baby went around the world during Operation Pillar of Defense, the eight-day military campaign during which the Israeli Air Force carried out 1,500 airstrikes on Gaza, and Palestinian terrorists fired about 1,500 rockets at Israel’s south.

A report released last week by the UN Human Rights Council appeared to exonerate the Israeli air force for the Mishrawi deaths. Rather, the report suggests, they were hit by shrapnel from a rocket fired by Palestinians that was aimed at Israel, but missed its mark.

“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in al-Zaytoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel,” the report states. A footnote explains that this case was “monitored” by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

Jihad al-Mishrawi told the BBC’s correspondent Ramallah that the UN report’s findings were “rubbish.”

“He said nobody from the United Nations had spoken to him, and said Palestinian militant groups would usually apologise to the family if they had been responsible,” the BBC’s Jon Donnison quoted al-Mishrawi as saying on Thursday.

Besides quoting al-Mishrawi’s dismissal of the UN account, Donnison’s story mentions several factors that ostensibly undermine the UN’s report on the November 14 incident. His article states that the IDF did not report on rockets being fired from Gaza so soon after Pillar of Defense began. It also states that IDF officials told journalists at the time that they targeted a Palestinian terrorist in the building that was hit.

UN officials visited al-Mishrawi’s home a month after the incident but did not conduct a forensic investigation, Donnison writes. They did not think the damage to the house “was consistent with an Israeli air strike,” yet could not “unequivocally conclude” it was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket either, according to Donnison.

“A UN official said it was also possible the house was hit by a secondary explosion after an Israeli air strike on Palestinian weapons stores,” he writes.

The BBC report also quotes an IDF official who said he could not comment on the UN’s findings but that it wouldn’t be the first time a Palestinian rocket had misfired. “He said that, in the intense first hours of the conflict, it was not always clear what was happening,” Donnison writes.

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