Israeli defence officials have confirmed that an Israeli raid on a Gaza cemetery killed five Palestinian children during its assault in early August, according to a new report, contradicting previous statements senior military officials made to local media.
Several defence sources told the Haaretz newspaper that an army inquiry into the August 7 attack concluded the five children – Jamil Najm al-Deen Naijm, aged 4; Jamil Ihab Najim, 13; Mohammad Nijm, 17; Hamed Nijm, 17; and Nazmi Abu Karsh, 15, were killed by an Israeli air attack on the Al-Faluja Cemetery next to the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.
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In the aftermath of that attack, which came during a three-day Israeli assault on the besieged enclave from August 6 to August 8, several senior Israeli officers told Haaretz the deaths were likely caused by an off-course Islamic Jihad rocket.
The military did not publicly assign blame for the deaths and did not respond to an Al Jazeera request for comment on the latest report.
Hours after the Haaretz report was published on Tuesday, the Najim family held a vigil at the cemetery in Gaza and called for Israel to face charges at the International Criminal Court. Four children from the family were killed in the raid.
Dozens of people attended the event, with some participants raising banners which read: “Our children have the right to live in peace and security.”
Ihab Najim, the father of the four children killed in the attack, told Al Jazeera that the family was sure that Israel was responsible for the children’s deaths after they heard testimonies from eyewitnesses.
“Our children were innocent and young, and they were in the cemetery opposite our house, visiting their grandfather’s grave. They were killed in cold blood. We call on all parties to stand with us and support the cause of our children in international courts.”
“Israel’s confession is not new to us,” he added. “It was clear from the first moments our four children and our neighbours’ son were killed that the missile was an Israeli one, according to eyewitnesses.”
In a separate incident that took place the day before the attack on the cemetery, the Israeli military had quickly blamed Islamic Jihad after eight people, including children, were killed in an explosion in the Jabalia refugee camp.
The Israeli military said it had not conducted any hits at the time of that attack, and later released video footage appearing to show several rockets fired from Gaza, with one appearing to fall short in mid-flight.
Seventeen children were among the 49 Palestinians killed in the three-day assault, which Israel described as a “preemptive operation” following its arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader in the occupied West Bank a day earlier.
Speaking to Al Jazeera after the August 7 killings, Hamed Najim’s mother noted the attack came hours before a ceasefire, which has since held, went into effect.
“Just two hours before the truce was announced, he told me he would go out for five minutes with his cousins,” she said. “Moments went by and then we heard a bombing. We ran out to find my son and his three cousins. They were all cut up into pieces.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council said that three of the boys killed in the attack had been undergoing trauma therapy before their deaths.
According to data compiled by Defense for Children International, at least 2,200 children have been killed by the Israeli military and Israeli settlers across the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2000 – the beginning of the second Intifada.
Maram Humaid contributed to this report from Gaza.