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Father rejects UN report suggesting errant Palestinian rocket killed baby

Palestinian journalist whose infant son was killed during Israel's November assault on the Gaza Strip says no one from the UN interviewed him for report. Hugh Naylor reports from Ramallah

Jehad Mashhrawi weeps as he holds the body of his 11-month-old son Omar at Shifa Hospital following an Israeli air strike on the family’s house in Gaza City.
Jehad Mashhrawi weeps as he holds the body of his 11-month-old son Omar at Shifa Hospital following an Israeli air strike on the family’s house in Gaza City.

RAMALLAH // A British Broadcasting Corporation employee whose infant son was killed during Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip in November has criticised a United Nations report that suggested the cause of the child's death may have been an errant Palestinian rocket.

Jehad Mashhrawi and several media organisations blamed Israel for the death of 11-month-old Omar, who was killed by shrapnel at the Mashhrawi home soon after fighting flared between Israel and Hamas militants last year.

But the findings released this month by UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that Omar and two of his relatives were probably killed by a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.

Mr Mashhrawi told the BBC on Monday that the UN report was "rubbish", saying that no one from OHCHR interviewed him.

BBC officials did not comment.

Mr Mashhrawi, a Palestinian journalist, became the face of Gaza's suffering during the eight-day war that killed 169 Palestinians and six Israelis when he was photographed grieving as he clutched the body of his lifeless son.

The OHCHR report, released on March 6, made brief mention of the incident and focused on other issues such as the disregard for civilian safety during the fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel.

The organisation later released a statement explaining that its finding on the Mashhrawi family deaths were based on witness accounts, examination of injuries and the lack of "significant structural damage" to the family home that would have been expected from an Israeli attack. But the statement added that it was "not in a position to unequivocally conclude" that the incident was due to a Palestinian rocket.

There are several concerns with the investigation, according to a BBC news story on Monday, which reported that OHCHR did not carry out a forensic investigation and added that Israel had reported that no rockets were fired from Gaza when Omar was killed.

Israeli military officials also told the BBC that they had been targeting a militant who was in the Mashhrawi home during the time of the incident.

The Mashhrawi incident occurred on the first day of the war, about an hour after Israel's assassination of a top Hamas military commander, which triggered the fighting.

In a statement, Israel's military declined to either confirm or deny the involvement in the attack but added that "dozens of Hamas rockets landed within the Gaza Strip" during the course of the fighting.

The Israeli military denied that it had killed other children during the war, such as four-year-old Mahmoud Sadallah, who was killed when a projectile exploded next to his home in the Jabaliya area of Gaza on November 16. His death moved Egypt's visiting prime minister to tears during an appearance at a hospital in Gaza City.

hnaylor@thenational.ae

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