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Investigators clear Israeli air force in deaths of Gaza family

  • Story Highlights
  • Israeli military says air force not to blame for deaths of mother, four children
  • IDF says it shot at militants, whose weaponry exploded
  • Secondary explosions killed Beit Hanoun family, probe concludes
  • Palestinian Authority issues no official reaction to report
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- An Israeli military investigation has cleared its air force in Monday's deaths of a Palestinian mother and her four children, the Southern Command of the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.

Two Palestinian boys wait outside during the funeral Monday for a Gaza family killed in an Israeli airstrike.

The military had been ordered to investigate the incident and announce its conclusions within 48 hours, after a Palestinian outcry over the deaths in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

Palestinian medical and security sources said the children -- ages 1, 3, 4 and 6 -- and their mother were killed when Israeli tank shells hit their house. One militant was killed and another was wounded in the attack, sources said.

Israel has expressed "deep remorse" over the civilian deaths.

The investigators agreed with the IDF's contention that the family was killed by explosives and weapons that four militants were carrying near the family's home when they were hit by an Israeli aerial assault. The home was extensively damaged, investigators said.

When the Israelis fired, the militants' backpacks were hit, causing "secondary explosions," the IDF said in a written statement.

"The possibility that the family was hit by other IDF fire was eliminated, since this was the only incident recorded that day in which attacks were carried out in the area," the military said.

"The attacks against the gunmen were accurate and the gunmen were hit," the IDF said. "The secondary explosions triggered by the weaponry and ammunition carried by the gunmen were bigger than the ones caused by the ammunition used by the IDF."

The IDF released a video to support its description of the incident.

According to the IDF, its forces were operating in the vicinity of the Izbet neighborhood because of terror threats, with the goal of arresting wanted Palestinians.

The IDF has accused terrorist organizations of operating within civilian populations, using civilians as human shields and risking civilians' lives by keeping bombs and explosives near them.

There was no official reaction from the Palestinian Authority on Friday. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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