(Reuters) – Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was killed by Israeli troops two months ago on Monday, while filming in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army says it is investigating but has yet to explain its actions. Following are key facts established by Reuters with the aid of independent British investigators:
— Fadel Shana, 24, was killed by several darts, known as flechettes, which burst from a shell fired by an Israeli tank on April 16 about 5:30 p.m. The tank firing and shell bursting were the final images on tape before Shana’s camera was destroyed.
— Eight other civilians aged between 12 and 20 were killed, six of them aged under 16. At least seven other bystanders aged from 10 to 18 were also hit. None was armed or was a militant. Reuters soundman Wafa Abu Mizyed, 25, was wounded in the wrist.
— Shana and Abu Mizyed were wearing blue body amour marked “Press” and stood next to a car bearing “TV” and “Press” markings on a country road some 100 meters southeast of Gaza’s main highway. Two Merkava-4 main battle tanks stood on a ridge about 1.5 km (a mile) to the southeast, facing northwest.
— In the preceding half hour, the Reuters crew had driven past a point 700 meters from the tanks, filmed the aftermath of an Israeli air strike that killed 9 civilians, and returned by the same route. Shana had stopped, set up his tripod and filmed a panorama of the area, including the tanks, for some minutes.
— Twenty or more children, some on bicycles, were present between Shana and the main Gaza highway 100 meters behind him. No witness heard or saw militant activity in the area all day.
— An Israeli observation drone was circling over the area.
— One of the tanks fired two fleches shells, typically containing 5,000 1.5-inch (3.75-mm) metal darts. Their purpose is to kill troops in an area 300 meters wide. In 2003, Israel’s Supreme Court said “use of the flechette is restricted to areas in which the danger to innocent civilians is not actual”.
— The first shell killed Shana and others. The tank then fired a second flechette shell, perhaps a minute later. Journalists who arrived filmed a third explosion at 5:40 p.m. Shana’s car was burnt out but its diesel tank had not exploded.
Findings of the independent report commissioned by Reuters:
— Shana … was killed as a result of an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) tank attack at approximately 1730 on April 16, 2008.
— For several minutes prior to his death (Shana) had been filming a panoramic scene of an area in which an IDF air strike had killed nine people believed to be civilians and in which at least two IDF tanks were still visible.
— Three IDF soldiers had been killed in the morning in an ambush approximately 15 km northeast of the location.
— But … there were no known militants at the scene of the attack and no identified militant activity.
— There was at least one UAV above the scene. This drone should have been able to distinguish the press markings on Shana’s vehicle and identify the presence of children.
— (Shana) had a professional attitude to safety and had taken all reasonable precautions … He complied with Reuters’ own safety policy and his actions can not be interpreted as irresponsible or negligent in any way.