Israel has refuted allegations of war atrocities in Gaza after Palestinian children described how their parents had been "executed" by Israeli troops.
By Murray Wardrop, Telegraph.co.uk, Jan. 21, 2009
One nine-year-old boy said his father had been shot dead in front of him despite surrendering to Israeli soldiers with his hands in the air.
Another youngster described witnessing the deaths of his mother, three brothers and uncle after the house they were in was shelled.
He said his mother and one of his siblings had been killed instantly, while the others bled to death over a period of days.
A psychiatrist treating children in the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City, where the alleged incidents took place, described the deaths as a "massacre".
Rawya Borno, a Jordanian doctor, said civilians, including children, were rounded up and killed by Israeli troops.
Israel has denied the claims, dismissing them as Hamas propaganda, but said that an investigation is being conducted into soldiers' conduct in the area.
In interviews with ITV News, Palestinians claimed that Israeli forces knowingly killed civilians in Zeitoun on the morning of Jan 14.
Abdullah Samouni, nine, described the moment his father was allegedly "executed" by Israeli soldiers.
Holding his arms in the air, he said: "He was surrendering like this. My father came out and they shot him right away."
A boy named Ahmed said he was trapped for days in the wreckage of the shelled Samouni family's house.
He said: "My mother was dead beside me, she was clutching my brother Nasser and they were dead. My brother Itzaq was bleeding for two days and then he died. My brother Izmael bled to death in one day. My uncle Talal was bleeding for two hours and he died. God bless them."
Dr Borno said: "It's a massacre. They collected them from their houses. They knew that they were civilians. They were children."
When asked if Hamas had been in Zeitoun, Dr Borno replied: "Suppose that there is one of the fighters around, what is it to do with all these? Is the price to kill the family as a whole? Is this baby carrying a machine gun?"
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev suggested the claims could be Hamas propaganda and said an investigation was under way. However, he said that Israeli troops had reported that Zeitoun was "full of Hamas" militants and that soldiers encountered booby traps in "every house" in the village.
He said: "When people live in an authoritarian regime, when it's clear there is an official message and the message is to give out atrocity propaganda, [then] at least I think we should ask questions.
"Hamas has an interest in sending out this sort of atrocity propaganda.
"What happened in that village is under investigation. I know from speaking to IDF officers that there was very serious combat in that village, that every house was booby-trapped, there were guns. Very difficult military operation.
"If there is any Israeli solder that has done something inappropriate of course that will be discovered and there will be law, but I am very concerned about a situation where children are manipulated, where everyone is on the same message.
"We know that village was full of Hamas fighters. It's against the rules of engagement of the Israeli army to shoot innocent civilians."