JERUSALEM – The killing of eight members of the Kaware family, six of them children, in Gaza was a "tragic mistake," said Israeli military officials on Thursday.
The strike on the Kaware family home came just after 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The house, which lies in a middle-class neighborhood in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis, was home to several generations of the same family. One member of the family reported receiving a phone call minutes earlier from a young man named "David."
"There was a phone call, and then less than a minute later everything exploded," said family member Mahmoud Kaware.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said that in addition to the phone call, an unarmed missile was launched at the roof of the house at 2:50 p.m. That type of missile, which Israeli officers call "a knock on the door," is often launched ahead of an explosive missile.
Locals say they saw some members of the family leaving the home, but others appeared to head to the roof, to act as human shields to protect the family home. At 3 p.m., an F-16 fighter jet launched a missile, collapsing the entire residence.
"The residence was the home of Odeh Kaware, a commander in the Hamas military wing," said one Israeli military official, who briefed reporters. "It was a legitimate target."
Hamas expressed its anger at the killings. "The Khan Younis massacre ... of children is a horrendous war crime, and all Israelis have now become legitimate targets for the resistance," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Facebook.
Local journalists filmed this video of the immediate aftermath of the bombing.
The Israeli officer said that up to four members of the family were on the roof at the time that the missile hit. The entire building collapsed due to the force of the explosion. In addition to the eight people killed, dozens in the surrounding buildings and streets were injured.
"Warning was given, and the assessment at the time was that the house was empty. It was a tragic mistake," said the officer, who added that footage filmed by the IDF showed the family leaving the home.
A senior Air Force officer told Haaretz, "There was nothing to be done, the munition was in the air and could not be diverted... Although you see [the family members] running back into the house, there was no way to divert the missile."
The IDF has not released footage of the attack on the Kaware family home, though it has released footage of other strikes in the area.
The Israeli military has, in the past, released videos showing its pilots aborting strikes when it appeared that civilians had crowded the rooftops.
As the recent round of violence between Israel and Gaza entered its third day, Israeli officials reported that over 400 tons of explosives had been dropped in Gaza in as many sites. Among those sites hit were 60 houses, largely in the southern and northern cities of the coastal Gaza Strip. Gaza's Health Ministry said Thursday that at least 75 people had been killed, and hundreds wounded.
Hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza into southern and central Israeli cities, striking deeper into Israel's densely populated center than ever before.
Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F
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