Palestinian rocket fire may have killed the 11-month-old son of BBC journalist
Jihad Misharawi during the Gaza conflict last November, according to the draft
copy of a United Nations report on Operation Pillar of Defense.
of an anguished Misharawi holding his son Omar’s small, shroud-wrapped body in
the hospital on November 14, the first night of the eight-day war, became
symbolic of the tragic toll the conflict took on Gazans.
photo of a smiling Omar Misharawi was circulated on Facebook and Twitter,
including by those who wanted to accuse Israel of war crimes and intentionally
targeting civilians during that conflict.
But in a surprising turn of
events, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay last Wednesday
issued a preliminary report on the operation blaming Palestinian rockets in Gaza
for the child’s death.
In the report, which Pillay is scheduled to
present to the UN Human Rights Council on March 18, she stated: “On 14 November,
a woman, an 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al- Zaitoun [in
Gaza] were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of
On Monday, in the wake of media reports, her office (OHCHR)
clarified that the baby cited in that report was Omar Misharawi. OHCHR said its
results were not conclusive, but that field research its staff had conducted in
Al- Zaitoun in December appeared to indicate that a Palestinian rocket had
fallen on the Misharawi home.
Field workers visited the home and spoke
with eyewitnesses, according to OHCHR.
It noted that Misharawi’s home was
located near an area used by armed Palestinian groups to launch rockets against
Israel, and as such it was also targeted by Israel’s air force.
Misharawi told the BBC that he believed the UN report was “rubbish,” saying the
UN had not contacted him about the report and that Palestinian groups would apologize to the family if they had been
According to Pillay’s report, the IAF executed over 1,500
air strikes on Gaza, while the navy conducted another seven strikes and shot 360
mortar shells into the Hamas-controlled area.
Armed Palestinian groups in
Gaza, in turn, fired 765 homemade rockets, 741 long-range Grad rockets and 135
mortar shells at Israel, according to the report. Six Israelis, including four
civilians, were killed in those strikes, the report noted.
stated that of the 174 Palestinians who died in the conflict, the IDF killed
168; among them were 33 children and 13 women. Another six Palestinians were
killed by rockets launched in Gaza, including one woman and three children,
according to the report.
In its statement on Thursday, OHCHR said it
believed Misharawi was one of those children possibly killed by Palestinian
rocket fire because the damage to the family’s home was not consistent with the
physical harm caused by an Israeli air strike.
“Israeli attacks normally
result in serious structural damage,” OHCHR said, adding that in this case
“there was no significant structural damage.” Instead, it noted, there was
“primarily incendiary damage” to the home.
“This is consistent both with
the type of injuries suffered by the victims, as well as the descriptions of
eyewitnesses who reported that something resembling a large fire ball struck the
roof of the house,” OHCHR said.
Homemade rockets typically have a fuse
and explosives in the front, as well as a propellant charge for the fuel, OHCHR
The Foreign Ministry, which has cut its ties with the Human Rights
Council and Pillay’s office, had no response to the report.
The scope of
Pillay’s 17-page report went well beyond Misharawi’s death, which involved only
one line, and dealt mainly with the conflict in its entirety.
half of the report focused on Israeli actions and included a description of Gaza
civilian fatalities and structural damage.
The report noted that media
and medical buildings were hit during the strikes, and that two journalists were
killed. But its language was more tempered then that of past reports on Israeli
military actions against Gaza, and its conclusions were more balanced. In some
cases it used harsher language to describe Palestinian actions.
that all parties to the conflict, Gaza Palestinians and the IDF, had failed to
respect international law.
The IDF, it said, “did not consistently uphold
the basic principles of conduct of hostilities, namely, the principles
distinction, proportionality and precautions.” The Palestinian armed groups, it
said, “continuously violated international humanitarian law, by launching
indiscriminate attacks on Israel and by attacking civilians, thereby
disregarding the principle of distinction. The armed groups failed to take all
feasible precautions in attacks, in particular by launching rockets from
populated areas, which put the population at grave risk.”
also charged that Hamas’s killing of seven alleged collaborators in Gaza during
the conflict was a “violation of their right to life and of international