CBNNews.com - JERUSAPLEM, Israel - An IDF (Israel Defense Forces) investigation into the deaths of four Palestinian girls during Operation Cast Lead concluded that they were killed by tank shells.
On January 16, a Golani Brigade unit came under heavy fire in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.
Three daughters -- aged 20, 15 and 13 -- and a niece of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish were in their home adjacent to the building from which the gunmen were firing.
After locating the source of heavy sniper and mortar shell fire, the troops returned fire.
In the heat of the fighting, IDF troops saw several people on the top floor of the house next door.
Suspecting that they were directing the firing in the adjacent building, the unit's commander ordered his men to fire two tank shells at the building.
These shells killed the four girls and wounded another of the doctor's daughters, a son and his brother.
Days before the incident, IDF officers in the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration contacted Dr. Abuelaish several times, urging him to evacuate his family because of Hamas operating in the area and the probability that intense fighting would take place there.
In addition to the personal contact, the IDF dropped leaflets to area residents and issued warnings through Palestinian media outlets.
On Wednesday night, the 55-year-old gynecologist, who trained in Israeli hospitals, was a guest on Israel's Channel 2 news.
Abuelaish thanked everyone who took part in the investigation.
"First of all, I would like to thank all those who worked and had the courage and good conscience to shed light on the truth that I always believed," he said.
"I have two options: the path of darkness or the path of light. The path of darkness is like choosing all the complications with diseases and depression, but the path of light is to focus on the future and my children. This strengthened my conviction to continue on the same path and not to give up," he said.
"The love that I've received from people I knew and people I didn't know gave me strength," he said.
The IDF concluded that the intensity of the fighting and threats to the unit made the commander's decision to fire on the building reasonable, though it deeply regretted the loss of civilian lives.
"No other army in the world investigates such regrettable accidents," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "We cannot bring anyone back to life, but we know that we have the most moral army in the world."
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz