VIDEO - Four Palestinian children, all members of one family, were killed Monday morning in an Israel Defense Forces strike in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources reported.
Video courtesy of Infolive.tv
According to the report, an IDF shell hit a house in the town of Beit Hanoun, killing five members of the Abu Meatak family. Palestinian medics identified the dead children as sisters Rudina and Hana Abu Meatak, aged 6 and 3; and their brothers 4-year-old Saleh and 15-month-old Mousad. Their mother, Miyasar, was in her late 30s. Her two older children were critically wounded in the strike, the officials said.
A 15-year-old boy was also killed in the strike while making his way to school. Nine people were reportedly injured, three of them sustaining serious to critical wounds.
A Palestinian source in the Strip said that a member of the al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad's military wing, was also killed by IDF soldiers.
The IDF reported that it had attacked a group of gunmen spotted near forces operating in Beit Hanoun. Soldier belonging to the Givati patrol brigade exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen in the area. During the military activity, an IDF soldier was lightly injured in the leg and rushed to hospital.
Children's bodies at Gaza hospital (Photo: Reuters)
Beit Hanoun farmer Omar Abdel Nabi said he was driving his tractor in a nearby field when two or three explosions shook the ground.
"People were screaming that a tank shell landed in the next street," he told The Associated Press. "I carried two people covered in blood out of a house."
The force of the blast scattered clothes and other household items outside the two-room home. A single white children's shoe, flattened by the explosion, lay on the ground near a blue pair of shorts covered in sand. A green baby chair also sat outside, one end bent by the force of the blast.
'Mother was fixing breakfast as shelling began'
A large crowd of people gathered outside, milling about as rescue crews cleaned up the debris and washed away bloodstains in the sand.
The children were taken to a local hospital morgue, where family members stood over the bodies, wailing and flailing their hands in the air.
"I feel sick. I want to throw up the blood that is boiling inside me, into the face of the occupation," said Ibrahim Abu Meatak, the children's 24-year-old half-brother. He said Miyasar Meatak was fixing breakfast for the family when the tank shell struck.
The IDF is looking into the incident, but has yet to obtain a full picture of what happened. Military sources noted that a group of gunmen was spotted shortly after 8 am near Givati forces operating in the area. An aircraft fired at them and hit them, while tanks fired shells towards the area.
"The area where the fighting is taking place is very crowded," a source said. "The terror organizations are knowingly operating near civilians and putting them in danger. We are thoroughly looking into the circumstances of the incident."
One of the options the army is looking into is whether the family members were hurt as a result of an explosion of weapons on the gunmen's bodies.
Addressing the possibility that the family was hit by IDF fire, the source said, "This is an essential activity taking place within the populated areas in a bid to distance the terrorists from the border fence. If we don’t operate there, we'll find the terror organizations on the border fence and inside Israel."
Rockets, mortars hit southern Israel
Shortly after the strike, Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip, which landed in an open area in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
In addition, seven mortar shells landed in open areas in the Kerem Shalom area. The Islamic Jihad's military wing claimed responsibility for the firing the mortars.
Earlier Monday, Palestinian gunmen fired three Qassam rockets from northern Gaza towards Israel. The rockets landed in the Netivot area, within the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council and on Palestinian territory. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian organizations are preparing for another round of talks in Egypt in regards to the offer for a truce with Israel. According to estimates, the parties will accept the proposal presented by Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar over the weekend.
Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, told Ynet on Sunday that Israel is continuing its activities in the Gaza Strip, while completely ignoring the discussions on a truce. "Therefore, there is no reason for us to stop taking measures to defend ourselves," he said.
Heavy exchanges of fire took place over the weekend between IDF forces and Palestinian gunmen in Beit Lahiya. A 14-year-old Palestinian girl was killed in the incident, and at least seven other Palestinians were injured, three of them sustaining critical wounds.
The hospital in the northern reported that the girl killed was the daughter of a senior Hamas members arrested by the forces during the incident. The Palestinians added that the girl's mother was also injured in the clashes.
The IDF confirmed that exchanges of fire had taken place on Friday night and Saturday morning between gunmen and an IDF ground force and that the Israel Air Force attacked gunmen in two separate incidents in a bid to assist the soldiers operating in the area.
Hanan Greenberg, Shmulik Hadad and AP contributed to this report