Saturday - 28 March 2015 
January 21, 2009

Cast Lead: F16 strike kills 16 family members, 11 children

The latest figures from the Palestinian Ministry of Health indicate that, 1,314 Palestinians have been killed – including 412 children – and at least 5,300 injured – including 1,855 children – in Operation Cast Lead. DCI-Palestine has confirmed the deaths of 98 children, and is in the process of investigating a further 171 reports of child fatalities.

On Thursday, 1 January 2009 in the afternoon, F16 aircrafts were crisscrossing the sky above northern Gaza, firing sound bombs. Mohammad Rayyan (22) told DCI-Palestine that his father, Nizar Rayyan, was at home in the al-Khulafa al-Rashedin neighbourhood of Jabalia camp, northern Gaza.

When he saw the F16s, Mohammad grew worried and called his father, a Hamas leader, on his mobile phone to check on him and on the rest of the family. His father, mother, three step-mothers, as well as 11 of his siblings (all under 18) were all gathered together to watch television.

Nizar Rayyan reassured his son, telling him that their neighbours, the Abu al-Jbain, had received a telephone warning from the Israeli army to evacuate their house, but that they had not. It seems that Nizar did not think his house would come under attack.

Less than five minutes later, Mohammad heard three successive explosions in the al-Khulafa al-Rashedin neighbourhood, seemingly caused by missiles fired from an F16. He was approximately 300 metres away. He ran towards his father’s house, and found the five-storey building in rubble. Two adjacent houses had also been completely demolished, and a few surrounding houses had been damaged.

PRCS and civil defence paramedics were already on the scene. They managed to recover the bodies of 14 members of the Rayyan family. Ghassan (16) and Zainab (8) remained under rubble until the following day. In total, 16 members of the Rayyan family were killed in the strike, including 11 children:

  • As'ad Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (1) 
  • Aysha Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (2)
  • Osama Eben Zaid Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (2)
  • Halima Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (4)
  • Reem Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (4)
  • Abed al-Rahman Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (5)
  • Zainab Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (8)
  • Maryam Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (9)
  • Aya Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (11)
  • Abed al-Qader Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (11)
  • Ghassan Nizar Abed al-Qader Rayyan (16)

According to hospital sources, the attack injured another 46 children; 16 of them were treated for shock.

The 16 members of the Rayyan family were killed in what appears to be a planned targeted assassination of the Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, as three missiles were launched successively onto his house without warning. His neighbours, however, had been warned by the Israeli army in time to evacuate their house.

DCI-Palestine denounces the Israeli army’s reckless use of lethal force and its complete disregard for the law of armed conflict. Those who planned and carried out this attack must have known that the use of such military power on a civilian building would cause a large number of civilian casualties. Furthermore, the Rayyan family was not engaged in hostilities at the time of the strike; they were not posing any threat to Israel. Had Nizar Rayyan been armed, the launch of three missiles onto his family home, with the expected result of killing his entire family, could never be legitimised by military necessity. There can be no legal justification for this deadly attack.

DCI-Palestine welcomes the ceasefire. However, ending the assault is not enough. More needs to be done to ensure the protection of surviving children and their families in Gaza. More needs to be done to bring them justice and prevent further attacks.  DCI-Palestine demands:

  • Urgent humanitarian intervention and support to provide for the needs of children injured, displaced, and otherwise affected by the military offensive, as well as their families.
  • An independent investigation into each incident involving civilian fatalities during Operation Cast Lead, and prompt prosecution in accordance with international law of those found responsible for ordering, planning and carrying into effect war crimes. 
  • The immediate and permanent lifting of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip to allow the free flow of goods and services in and out of the territory.
  • The annulment of the upgrade of EU-Israel bi-lateral relations approved by the EU-Israel Association Council on 16 June 2008.

For further information please go to DCI-Palestine’s Gaza Under Attack webpage.

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