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Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009
Gaza: Out of the Ruins

The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen covered Israel's 22-day military offensive in Gaza and now reports for Panorama on the aftermath of a sustained bombardment of the narrow and densely populated territory.


During the war the Israeli army killed around 1,300 Palestinians - armed men, civilians and hundreds of children. They destroyed acres of homes and businesses.

Dr Izeldeen Abuelaish
Dr Izzeldeen Abuelaish's daughters and niece were killed by tank shells

If the damage had no justifiable and proportionate military purpose then it is classified as wanton destruction, which is a breach of the laws of war. What it also does is ratchet up the level of hatred for Israel because each pile of rubble was somebody's home or somebody's business.

Israel says that the war was a justified and legitimate defensive action. Its army has not answered detailed questions we submitted about their actions - saying it is investigating at its own pace, not the media's.

But Israel has released a report about the attack on the home of Dr Izzeldeen Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor whose three daughters and niece were killed by Israeli tank fire.

I started with the doctor's case when I met Israel's interior minister, Meir Shetrit, who is in his country's security cabinet.

Meir Shetrit blames Hamas for the Palestinian deaths

I visited Dr Izzeldeen Abuelaish's home in Jabalya in Gaza.

The Israeli army says that two tank shells were fired after soldiers thought they saw Hamas spotters in the building. It says there was fighting in the area.

The doctor says it was quiet when the attack happened.

His daughters and his niece felt safe enough to sit in a corner room in the apartment doing their homework.

At the time I was there, the room in which the girls had been killed had not been touched since the attack.

Inside the bedroom where the girls died

In wars between small groups like Hamas and big national armies like Israel's victory is in the eye of the beholder. It is all a question of how you define it.

For Hamas the fact that they can say that they control the Gaza Strip and still say that they are resisting Israel adds up to victory.

All the Palestinians I have met believe Israel's attacks were murderous - including opponents of Hamas who also say its rocket fire provoked Israel recklessly.

Getting to talk to Hamas fighters is not easy. The senior leaders of Hamas are in hiding because believe they are targets.

But we made contact with a member of the armed wing, the Izzadine al-Qassam Brigades. He calls himself Abu Hamza, which is not his real name, and he wore a mask during the interview.

Abu Hamza says militants were told to fire from empty areas

Panorama - Gaza: Out of the Ruins, Monday 9 February at 8.30pm on BBC One



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