Israeli precision-guided munition likely killed group of children playing foosball in Gaza

Israeli precision-guided munition likely killed group of children playing foosball in Gaza
Israeli precision-guided munition likely killed group of children playing foosball in Gaza

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - GAZA — The last time Mona Awda Talla saw her daughter Shahed alive, she was leaving the house to go buy her some cake, wearing pink pants. The 10-year-old stopped to play foosball with her friends beside the cake shop in Gaza’s Al-Maghazi refugee camp. Moments later, she was dead.

Grief-stricken and sobbing, Awda Talla said she still can’t believe that her only daughter will never come home. A video showing the aftermath of the strike that killed Shahed captured her sprawled on the ground next to her friends, her pink pants impossible to miss.

“There is no Shahed now. Every time she came in, she said, ‘Mom.’ I would say, ‘My soul, my soul,’” Awda Talla told CNN. “My soul is gone.”

The scene outside Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital as victims from the strike on Gaza’s Al-Maghazi refugee camp arrive.

In the two weeks since the attack, the Israeli military’s statements have shifted, but it has not taken responsibility for the strike that ultimately killed Shahed and 10 other children.

An analysis of the site of the attack, documented by a freelance journalist working for CNN in Gaza, paints a very different picture of Israeli military responsibility. Three munitions experts who reviewed videos and photos showing damage caused by the strike and shrapnel left in its aftermath, independently drew the same conclusion: that the carnage was likely caused by a precision-guided munition deployed by the Israeli military.

Chris Cobb-Smith, a former British Army officer and weapons expert, who has experience investigating munitions used by Israel in Gaza said that, based on available imagery of the aftermath, he believed the strike was “absolutely” caused by a precision-guided missile fired by an Israeli drone.

“It’s certainly a light missile fired by UAV — by a drone,” Cobb-Smith. “There’s a certain aspect of this particular missile, which is very evident — it’s clearly a small munition,” and has devastating consequences, he added.

The missile landed just a few meters away from Shahed and her friends at the foosball table. At that range, their deaths were inevitable.

CNN documented fragments of the munition collected at the scene by Shahed’s uncle, including what appeared to be a part of a circuit board. The strike left a small crater in the road, and imagery from the scene showed surrounding buildings pockmarked with tiny holes, which weapons experts said was indicative of fragmentation caused by a sophisticated missile.

Chris Lincoln-Jones, a former British military officer and an expert in drone warfare, told CNN that the circuit board uncovered at the scene was crucial to distinguishing the munition. Artillery shells have very few electronic components, and a circuit board suggests a sophisticated, precision-guided weapon was deployed.

N.R. Jenzen-Jones, a munitions specialist and director of the research company Armament Research Services (ARES), said that the “remnants strongly suggest a guided munition, most likely a guided missile or loitering munition,” but added that he was unable to identify conclusively the specific type of weapon from the fragments.

Cobb-Smith said he believed there was “no question” that an Israeli munition was used in the attack, saying Palestinian militants “do not have anything with this amount of sophistication” in their arsenal.

The Israeli military surveil the Gaza Strip on a near constant basis and weapons experts CNN spoke to say this type of munition would not be fired without first assessing the area, raising questions about how the decision was made to carry out the strike.

There have been growing questions over the Israeli military’s chain of command, especially in light of an investigation by +972 Magazine and Local Call into the military’s use of artificial intelligence to help assess and approve bombing targets.

CNN has pressed the Israeli military for details about the strike, which took place on April 16 at about 3:40 p.m., according to video evidence.

Two days after the strike, in response to CNN providing the time and coordinates for the attack, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it struck a “terror target” in Al-Maghazi but declined to provide any additional details. An IDF spokesman said they were unaware of the number of casualties, but that the incident was under review and the military was working to locate the strike in its records.

Two weeks later – and three days after CNN shared its analysis of the strike in which the children were killed – the Israeli military said it did not have any record of it.

“The strike in question was carried out at a different time than described in the query, and was approved based on an accurate intelligence indication,” the Israeli military statement said, referring to CNN’s request for response. “The collateral damage as described in the query is not known to the IDF.”

But Palestinian journalists reporting in Al-Maghazi said there were no other airstrikes on that day. Metadata from videos filmed on two different iPhones in the immediate aftermath were timestamped at 3:40 p.m., the time CNN provided the IDF.

The Israeli military declined to provide any additional evidence to back up its claims. It also declined to answer questions regarding the nature of the target or whether any militants were killed.

One week after the strike, children had already returned to play at the foosball table where Shahed and other children were killed.

But they said they were still afraid.

“When the strike hit, I was on my way to play foosball,” Mahmoud Beha Abdel Lattif said. “Every time before I go to sleep, I think of what happened here. I don’t sleep well, I’m always afraid to sleep.”

Sama, one of Shahed’s friends, was with her the day she was killed — spared only by her thirst.

“I went home to drink water and the strike hit,” Sama said, wearing a beaded necklace Shahed made her. “I miss her a lot.”

Others were not so lucky.

For nearly 16 days, 8-year-old Ahmed Abu Jayyab fought for his life in a hospital bed at Al-Aqsa Martyr’s hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding in his brain.

He died Thursday morning, becoming the eleventh child killed by that strike. — CNN

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