August 5, 2011
Posted: 1511 GMT
The Abu Hajjaj family home in Gaza
This week, Israel's Defense Ministry agreed to make an extraordinary payment – an award of almost $150,000 to a Palestinian family in Gaza.
It is the first pay-out to any party claiming harm during the course of Operation Cast Lead – Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza that began at the end of 2008, according to the Ministry and human rights organizations
The settlement was negotiated by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) on behalf of the family of a mother and daughter killed by Israeli soldiers during Cast Lead. The payment is to be made to the family in return for their dropping the claim against the Israeli military.
The family of Riyeh and Majda Abu Hajjaj filed their claim against the Israeli military two years ago – with the help of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem The family claimed that on January 4th, 2009 the mother and daughter were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers as they and other civilians evacuated a house in a Gaza city neighbourhood while carrying white flags. The family said they were not able to retrieve the bodies from the scene until two weeks later because of continued fighting in the area.
In a statement to CNN the Israeli Ministry of Defense said the claim was settled out of court "because the Defense Ministry believes that it was exceptional (not reflecting at all on the norm) and justifies the granting of reparation."
The Israeli military said after the complaint was filed by the family military police opened an investigation, but that as of yet no indictment against any Israeli soldiers has been filed in the case. In a separate statement to CNN on the case the Israeli military said:
"Following this complaint a military police investigation was opened. Subsequently the Military prosecutor received information about the killing of a woman during the operation, and following on from this information another investigation was opened. The indictment letter which was presented does not relate to the incident in which the two girls from the Hajjaj family were killed, because there is doubt as to whether the shooting incident and the incident in which the two were killed is the same incident."
PCHR called the award a "judicial precedent" and said it was pursuing "hundreds of claims" on behalf of alleged Palestinian victims of Israel's military operation.
Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in late December 2008 to stop Hamas and other militant groups from firing rockets into the southern parts of the country. Conflicting death tolls from the operation have fueled debate and controversy.
More than 1,400 Palestinians died in Israel's incursion, according to officials in Gaza. The Israeli military has maintained 1,166 people were killed, 60 percent of whom were "terror operatives."
Sarit Michaeli, the spokeswoman for B'Tselem said reparation payments to Palestinians injured or killed in Israeli military operations were "pretty rare," citing various legal and bureaucratic hurdles plaintiffs must clear and speculated that the fact that the military settled was a reflection of the "blatant" and "exceptional" nature of the case.
Posted by: Kevin Flower
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