Sixteen-year-old Asma Mughayer (back row, left, in this family photo from the Sydney Morning Herald) and her thirteen-year-old brother, Ahmed (front row, left) were shot dead while hanging out laundry on the roof of their home in Rafah, on the morning that the IDF launched a major attack ("Operation Rainbow") on the Tel al-Sultan refugee camp where they lived, on 18 May 2004.
The IDF said of their deaths: "A preliminary investigation indicates they were killed by a bomb intended to be used against soldiers. It was set outside a building by Palestinians to hit an Israeli vehicle". But the Mughayer family said that the children had not been killed by a bomb, but shot by an Israeli sniper, operating out of a neighboring building.
An Australian journalist visited the Mughayer house, and found no signs of an explosion there, though he did find bullet holes on the roof, made by bullets which seemed to have been fired from the neighboring building. He visited the neighboring building, and found that its occupants had been held prisoner by an Israeli sniper team that had operated out of their house on the morning that Asma and Ahmed were killed, and left behind MRE wrappers and ammunition boxes (labelled in Hebrew) .
British journalists who examined the children's bodies at the morgue (AP Photo - Kevin Frayer) found no signs of injuries except for a single bullet hole through the head.
After the British and Australian journalists published their findings, the IDF announced it would hold an internal investigation into the death of the Mughayer siblings. But six months later, while world attention was distracted by a new, large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip refugee camps, the IDF quietly dropped its investigation.
The following year, some of the soldiers who took part in Operation Rainbow gave their testimonies to the Breaking the Silence exhibition. They testified that they had killed innocent Palestinian civilians, under orders from their superiors to kill any Palestinian they encountered, armed or not. They were concerned, in retrospect, that they were guilty of carrying out illegal orders, and one of them knew what had happened in the specific case of Asma and Ahmed Mughayer, who the IDF assured us were blown up by a Palestinian bomb:
According to Rafi, an officer in the Shaldag, an elite unit connected to the air force, the whole mission was about revenge. "The commanders said kill as many people as possible," he said.
He and his men were ordered to shoot anyone who appeared to be touching the ground, as if they might be placing a roadside bomb, or anyone seen on a roof or a balcony, as if they might be observing Israeli forces for military reasons, regardless of whether they were armed.
Asma Moghayyer, 16, and her brother Ahmed, 13, were shot as they went to collect clothes from a rooftop washing line. The Israeli army insisted the children had been blown up by a roadside bomb. However, journalists visiting the morgue saw only single bullet wounds to the head.
The truth, said Rafi, was that they were shot by an Israeli soldier following clear orders to shoot anyone on a roof regardless of their role in the conflict.
Rafi says that his overriding impression of the operation was "chaos" and the "indiscriminate use of force". "Gaza was considered a playground for sharpshooters."
-- Israeli Soldiers Tell of Indiscriminate Killings by Army and a Culture of Impunity by Conal Urquhart; 6 Sept 2005.
Photo: T-shirt printed for members of an IDF elite unit who had completed sniper training, reads "The smaller they are - The harder it is!".
Source: Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009 (Ha'aretz); via Mondoweiss.