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Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. photo by Bob Talbot, University of Manitoba

Shlomi Eldar

Amir Perestz, fomer Israeli Minister of Defence, who tried to mediate this dispute.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


Abuelaish awarded Mahatma Gandi Peace Award of Canada by Premier Selinger in October 2010

by Rhonda Spivak, January 26, 2009

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who lost htree daughters and a niece when the Israel Defense Forces fired shells at his home during Operation Cast  Lead filed a massive damages claim against the State of Israel  on December 26, 2010 in the district court in Jerusalem.

Abuelaish, who now lives in Toronto, with his five surviving children, has been an advocate of co-existence and a peaceful non-violent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even in the aftermath of his personal tragedy. In October 2010,  Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger inaugurated the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award of Canada, which was presented to Abuelaish, who is now the Michael and Amira Dan Professor in Global Health at the University of Toronto. To see our earlier story on  this award to Abuelaish, click here.
Abuelaish told Yediot Achronoth  in December  2010, "I didn't want to file the lawsuit, and until now I didn't want to discuss it," according to Yedioth Ahronoth.. "I tried to take every step that would allow me to close this with love and goodwill, but they didn't leave me a choice. According to the law, the statute of limitations will apply to this case within a few weeks [ January 16, 2011] – but there is no statute of limitations on the blood of my daughters. It will stay with me forever. It's a catastrophe that's impossible to forget."

Abuelaish, a Palestinian gynecologist, worked in Israeli hospitals for nearly two decades. On January 16, 2009, in the height of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF fired two shells into the window of his home, killing three of his daugters: 20-year-old Bessan, 15-year-old Mayar and 14-year-old Aya. His 17-year-old niece Nour was also killed in the attack.

The Israeli public heard the horrifying incident in a live broadcast  with journalisty Shlomi  Eldar, as Abuelaish was about to do a phone interview with Eldar on Channel 2 Israeli television channel. For our story on Shlomi Eldar, producer of Precious Life, click here.
Abuelaish has said that he wanted to avoid a lawsuit and reach a settlement on the basis that  the State of Israel issue an apology to  him and provide compensation for causing the deaths. Abueleish has said that the money will go to a foundation he has set up  to promote health and education for women in the Middle East and to commemorate his family members who died.

Israeli government officials  have declined to offer an apology, saying the mishap was an “operation of war.”

 The IDF conceded that it had fired the fatal shells on January 16, 2009 after coming under fire from a house adjacent to that of the doctor.  But, it said, soldiers shot at Abuelaish’s building after spotting figures on an upper level who were thought to be directing the Hamas fire.

 Israel's official investigation conducted by the I.D.F. and posted on its website on Febuary 4, 2009 concludes:

During the counter-fire opened by the IDF forces, suspicious figures were identified in the upper level of Dr. Abu El-Eish's house and were thought to be spotters who directed the Hamas sniper and mortar fire. Upon assessing the situation in the field while under heavy fire, the commander of the force gave the order to open fire on the suspicious figures." 

"… In the days leading up to the incident, Dr. Abu El-Eish was contacted personally several times by officers in the Coordination and Liaison Administration in order to urge the doctor to evacuate his home, as many others already have, because of Hamas operations and the intense fighting that was already taking place in that area for several days."

 ‘‘The IDF Spokesperson Unit also emphasizes that in addition to the personal contact made directly with Dr. El-Eish, the IDF issued warnings to the residents of Sajaiya by dropping thousands of leaflets as well as issuing warnings via Palestinian media outlets."

Abuelaish  has flatly denied that there were Hamas spotters or snipers on the upper level of his house.

In November 2009, when Abuelaish was in Winnipeg speaking at the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Jewish Review reported that he said that although the IDF Forces initially claimed that Hamas militants were firing from the house, later the I.D.F “announced its responsibility (for) the shelling of my house.”

Abuelaish was delivering the Sol Kanee Lecture of the Arthur Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice at the University of Manitoba when he said this.                                     

The Defense Ministry's legal adviser, Ahaz Ben-Ari has said, "Despite the severe outcome, from a legal standpoint our stance is that the operation during which Dr. Abuelaish's family members were hurt was an operation of war." He added, "Therefore, the State of Israel does not carry the responsibility for the damage it caused."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.