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Jenin Deaths Video Implicates Israeli Army

6 July 2002

The BBC has obtained video footage which appears to show an incident in the West Bank city of Jenin two weeks ago in which two Palestinian children were killed by Israeli tank fire.

The Israeli army has apologized for causing the deaths of six-year-old Ahmad Abu Aziz and his 13-year-old brother Jamil, but said the tank crew opened fire to deter Palestinians breaking a curfew and approaching them.

However, the footage shows a tank firing the first of two shells, at close range, at a group of civilians who are running away.

The dead boys' father, Youssef Abu Aziz, told the BBC that they had gone outside to buy chocolate, thinking the Israeli curfew imposed on their city had been lifted. "I thought there was no danger," says Mr Abu Aziz. "Ahmad asked me for money because he wanted to buy a chocolate bar. I loved him and his brother so much. Ahmad was buried with the chocolate in his hand."

The film of their last moments begins with the two boys and a number of other civilians running towards the camera along an otherwise deserted street in Jenin.

Filmed from high building some distance away the footage is shaky, but clearly shows the sequence of events.

A white car speeds along the road, horn blaring, the driver - Dr Samer al-Ahmad - apparently warning the people to run for their lives.

Now recovering from his wounds, Dr al-Ahmad told the BBC that, moments earlier, an Israeli officer had said to him that it was allowed for him to be on the streets.

But then he said the tank crew opened fire on him with a machine-gun "without warning... I was hit but I drove on".

Soon afterwards in the film, the Israeli tank appears at the end of the street. It stops for a few seconds before firing in the direction of the retreating Palestinians, the blast engulfing it in a ball of flame and smoke.

Questions to answer

The troops entered Jenin and imposed a curfew as part of a massive security operation Israel said was designed stamp out the militant cells which have launched dozens of suicide attacks in the past two years.

Twenty-three suicide bombers have come from Jenin alone, earning it the reputation in Israel as the "capital of terrorism".

The Israeli army says its still investigating what happened that day.

BBC correspondent Orla Guerin, who viewed at first had the Abu Aziz tape, says the army has many questions to answer, including:

If the soldiers wanted to clear the street why didn't they fire warning shots? Why were tank shells used in a crowded civilian area?

Our correspondent says Israel has a poor record in prosecuting its own soldiers when faced with evidence like that seen in the tape.

When the Israeli army was asked to comment on the footage, it refused.

Published by the BBC © 2002 BBC

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