Image: Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish
Ben Curtis  /  AP file
Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a Palestinian doctor and peace activist who trained in Israel, travels with his son Abdullah, 6, on Jan. 21.
updated 2/5/2009 4:38:34 AM ET 2009-02-05T09:38:34

The Palestinian doctor became a symbol of the Gaza offensive after he captivated Israeli TV viewers with a sobbing live report on the death of his three daughters in Israeli shelling.

On Wednesday, Israel's military said its troops were fired on from nearby and called the mistaken identification of people in his house as combatants "reasonable."

The report said screams from the shelled building led soldiers to stop firing.

The military expressed sadness at the deaths but did not admit to a mistake in identification.

Israel is pursuing a number of investigations into Gaza deaths in the three-week offensive that ended last month. The offensive killed 1,300 people, about half of them civilians, according to Palestinian figures.

Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish has denied there were any militants in his house.

Voice of Palestinian suffering
The 55-year-old gynecologist is a rarity among Palestinians, a Hebrew speaker who trained in Israeli hospitals.

Throughout the war, he brought accounts of war's tragedy to Israeli living rooms through TV interviews, making him for many the voice of Palestinian suffering. He often spoke of his fears for his eight children.

But on Jan. 16, he answered his cell phone, crying, and told Channel 10 that his house in the northern Gaza strip town of Jebalia had been hit by Israeli shells and his daughters, ages 22, 15 and 14, were killed.

Abu al-Aish is a known peace activist and an academic who studied the effects of war on Gazan and Israeli children.

Days after the deaths, he said he wanted to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to hear firsthand why his children were killed.

The military's inquiry found that troops fired two shells at Abu al-Aish's home after militants fired from a nearby building. The inquiry showed troops identified suspicious figures on the upper level of his house.

"Suspicious figures were identified in the upper level of Dr. Abu al-Aish's house and were thought to be spotters who directed the Hamas sniper and mortar fire," the report said.

The environment of cramped Gaza, where 1.4 million people are squeezed into an area six miles wide and 25 miles long, appeared to contribute to the incident.

"Considering the constraints of the battle scene, the amount of threats that endangered the force, and the intensity of fighting in the area," the report said, "the forces' action and the decision to fire toward the building were reasonable."

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