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Middle East

11-month-old son of BBC picture editor is killed in Gaza


Update: A report of 6 March by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that the death of Omar Masharawi was the result of “what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel”.  The High Commissioner’s reported also concluded that the Israeli Defence Force, the De Facto Authorities in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups all “failed in many instances to respect international law”.

Sobbing and shaking with unbearable grief, Jihad Masharawi is pictured cradling the body of his murdered 11-month-old son Omar yesterday.

As the might of Israel's military - gunboats, tanks, and aircraft - pounded the Gaza Strip in pursuit of Islamic militants, Omar was one of 11 young Palestinians killed on a day of brutal fighting in the seemingly interminable conflict in the Middle East.

They included a chief of militant group Hamas, the Iranian-armed selfstyled “Islamic Resistance Movement” that governs Gaza.

Today the cycle of revenge continued as three people were killed in southern Israel by rockets fired from Gaza. Masharawi is a picture Editor for BBC Arabic.

His son is the latest innocent victim of a recent escalation in violence, with days of rocket fire prompting Israel to launch Operation Pillar of Defense, which Hamas said in return would “open the gates of hell”.

The brutal onslaught destroyed hopes that a truce mediated by Egypt on Tuesday could help to restore order and sanity.

Instead, Israel yesterday effected a surgical strike on a car containing Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the commander of the military wing of Hamas.

Within minutes of his murder, huge explosions shook the whole of Gaza, with plumes of smoke emanating from burning buildings and debris flying across the surface of the city.

Eleven month old Omar was killed in the process. For his inconsolable father, the gates of hell have been opened.

Hamas retaliated by firing four - or more - Grad rockets at the souther city of Beersheba. Israel reported damage but not fatalities.

Israel's 'Iron Dome' interceptor defence system neutralised a dozen rockets mid-flight.

In a macabre commentary on modern warfare, the violence was played out online, with both sides using Twitter to provide updates and declare brazenly that they were certain to emerge victorious.

The latest violence comes amid almost unprecedented turmoil across the region. Earlier this week, Israel fired at Syrian artillery positions from which, it claimed, shots were fired into the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Syria itself has descended into civil war, causing instability in its neighbour Lebanon.

Egypt condemned the raids as a threat to regional security, recalled its ambassador from Israel and called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

The new Islamist government in Cairo has pledged to honour its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Russia, whose cordial relations with Syria, born of shared intelligence, have been central to unsure response of the international community, called for an end to the raids.

Arab League foreign ministers will meet on Saturday to discuss the crisis.