Siba Abu Arar, a 14-month-old girl, and her pregnant aunt, Falastin Saleh Abu Arar, were killed during the unrest in Gaza. On that, Israel and Hamas agree. (The child’s name is sometimes given as Saba Abu Arar).
What they disagree about, vehemently: Who killed them, with each side blaming the other. Relatives of Siba Abu Arar held the dead child aloft for graphic and emotional photos that expressed their extreme grief; you can see those photos throughout this article, but be aware that they are graphic and very troubling. Heavy is running the photos because they help illustrate the reality of the conflict and its human cost, which escalated over the weekend.
In the latest escalation, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said on May 5, 2019 that the United States was sending a “carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East” as a warning to Iran that it will protect its allies if necessary, according to CNBC.
According to Vox, the death toll on May 5 stood at 12 Palestinians and four Israelis (according to News Now, at least six of the Palestinians killed were “militants.”) The Israel Defense Forces say Hamas fired “hundreds of rockets” from the Gaza Strip into Israel; Gaza officials then claimed that Israel had sent airstrikes into Gaza.
Haaretz reported that Israeli citizens were also killed, naming them as Moshe Agadi, 58; Ziad Alhamada, 49; Moshe Feder, 67; and Pinchas Menachem Pshuzman, 21. Agadi was a father of four. You can read more about Moshe Agadi, the first Israeli civilian killed, here.
Here’s what you need to know:
Both Sides Cast Blame on the Other for the Deaths of Siba Abu Arar & Her Aunt
Who killed Siba Abu Arar and Salah Bat Abu Arar? That’s unclear. Iraeli and Arab media sources give different accounts.
(There are varied spellings given for the names of the child and woman killed; Siba Abu Arar’s name is sometimes given as Saba Mahmoud or Saba Abu Arar; some sites give the pregnant woman’s name as Salah Bat Abu Arar, Falastine Abu Arar or Falastin Saleh Abu Arar.) The older woman was 37-years-old and pregnant. The toddler was killed instantly, Haaretz reported. There are conflicting reports also about whether the adult woman was eight or five months pregnant.
According to Haaretz, the Israeli Army claimed that Hamas caused the deaths, refuting claims by Palestinians, who earlier had claimed they were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
“Today we can say with certainty, after looking into the event, that they were killed as a result of an explosion of combustible materials during the activation of a Hamas explosive device,” the Israeli Army statement read, according to Haaretz. Israel has insisted its airstrikes are hitting “terrorist targets.”
Al-Jazeera reported that the Gaza Health Ministry said that “at least three Palestinians, including the woman, an infant and a 22-year-old man were killed in the air raids…while 13 others were wounded.”
Al-Jazeera quoted Ibtessam Abu Arar, describing her as “aunt of Siba, the 14-month old infant who died in the Israeli raid.” She said: “The Israeli plane fired a missile near the house and the shrapnel entered the house and hit the poor baby.”
According to Al-Jazeera, “Siba was being held in the lap of her pregnant aunt Falestine Abu Arar, 37, who was also struck. She died from her wounds hours later, the health ministry said in a statement.”
The International Middle East Media Center is less certain, writing, “At approximately 17:55 on the same day, an explosion of still-undetermined origin occurred in al-Zaytoun neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City. As a result, a 14-month-old toddler, Saba Mahmoud Hamdan Abu ‘Arar, and a 5-month pregnant woman, Falastine Saleh Abu ‘Arar (37) as well as her fetus were killed. Moreover, Ma’azouzah Mohammed Abu ‘Arar (72) and Hussam Adnan Abu ‘Arar (2 years) were wounded. Meanwhile, PCHR’s staff is still investigating the circumstances of the explosion.”
Camera, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, reported that the Associated Press amended its captions on the photos showing the child’s body. The AP captions initially reported the Hamas claim that Israeli airstrikes killed the child and woman without also reporting Israel’s denial, according to Camera.
The Times of Israel reported that initial accounts saying the child and woman were mother and daughter were incorrect.
Maj. Avichay Adraee, Israel’s Arab language spokesman, wrote on Twitter, “There are more and more indications reaching us from the Gaza Strip that put serious doubt on the truth of the statement from Hamas’s healthy ministry about the death of the baby Saba Mahmoud Hamdan Abu Arar and her mother Falastin Saleh Abu Arar. There are more and more indications reaching us from the Gaza Strip that put serious doubt on the truth of the statement from Hamas’s healthy ministry about the death of the baby Saba Mahmoud Hamdan Abu Arar and her mother Falastin Saleh Abu Arar.”
Another child was also injured, AP reported.