A Palestinian girl lays roses on the grave of one of the children of Nijim family at Al-Faluja cemetery in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. A Palestinian human rights group and an Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday that an explosion in a cemetery that killed five Palestinian children during the latest flare-up in Gaza was caused by an Israeli airstrike and not an errant Palestinian rocket. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
JEBALIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) — A Palestinian human rights group and an Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday that an explosion in a cemetery that killed five Palestinian children during the latest flare-up in Gaza was caused by an Israeli airstrike and not an errant Palestinian rocket.
It was one of a number of blasts during the fighting that did not bear the tell-tale signs of an Israeli F-16 or drone strike, and which the Israeli military said might have been caused by rockets misfired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group.
The five children, aged 4 to 16 years old, had gathered in the local cemetery, one of the few open spaces in the crowded Jebaliya refugee camp, on Aug. 7, hours before an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire ended three days of heavy fighting.
Residents said a projectile fell from the air and exploded in the cemetery. When The Associated Press visited the site, it saw none of the usual signs of an airstrike by an Israeli F-16 or drone, adding to suspicions that the blast was caused by an errant rocket. Both the Israeli military and Palestinian rights groups said at the time that they were still investigating the blast.
On Tuesday, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights said its investigation of shrapnel and other evidence led it to conclude that the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike.
“This was a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft,” said Raji Sourani, the director of the group, as he displayed pictures of what he said was a fragment showing the missile’s serial number.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper meanwhile cited unnamed Israeli defense officials as saying the military’s investigation had concluded that the five were killed by an Israeli strike.
Asked about the Haaretz story, the military said it was still examining the event. It said that throughout the the latest round of fighting, it had targeted militant infrastructure and “made every feasible effort to minimize, as much as possible, harm to civilians and civilian property.”
At a sit-in held by family members at the site of the explosion on Tuesday, Sahar Nijm said the loss of her son Mohammed was made even more painful by the suggestion he was killed by a Palestinian rocket.
“We always heard about other massacres, but when it happens to you, you really feel the oppression,” she said. “Especially when (Israel) denies this in order to portray us as oppressors and terrorists before the international community."
Diana Nijim said her son Hamid was desperate to go outside after sheltering indoors for the first two days of fighting. She said he and the other children went to the cemetery because it was the only open space in the neighborhood where they could play.
“This is the cruelest crime in the world," she said. "This is deliberate. They want to uproot us.”