GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The Canada-bound Gaza doctor who recounted live on Israeli television how his three daughters and niece had just been killed by shelling demanded Wednesday that Israel's defence minister explain their deaths.
Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a 55-year-old gynecologist who had accepted a post at the University of Toronto, sobbed as he reported the deaths shortly after an Israeli shell struck his home in the northern town of Jebaliya on Friday. His account captivated viewers on Israel's Channel 10 TV.
The well-known peace activist who was involved in promoting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects returned Wednesday to inspect his destroyed Gaza home and to reunite with his five surviving children. His wife died recently of cancer.
"I was well known to the Israelis even more than the Palestinians. They know me. Why they kill my children?" he sobbed in an interview Wednesday as he looked at pictures of his dead daughters amid the rubble in his home.
He said he wanted to meet with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak to hear firsthand why his children were killed.
"I want him to have the courage, to have the concern to meet me to tell me why, without falsification," he told Associated Press Television. "I'll be proud that my children were the symbol of this war - that their blood wasn't futile. That it awakened the concern of some, not the majority, of Israelis."
CBC News reported this week that Abu al-Aish had been planning to take his family and start fresh in Canada following his wife's death.
"I was sitting there with them, planning, because I got an offer in Canada, at the University of Toronto," he told the network.
Abu al-Aish is an academic who studied the effects of war on Gaza and Israeli children and he works at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital.
Gaza officials identified his slain daughters as 22-year-old Bisan, 15-year-old Mayer and 14-year-old Aya. His niece was identified as 14-year-old Nour Abu al-Aish.
Two other daughters were wounded and were taken to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Israeli TV said initial reports indicated that a sniper had fired from either the family's building - which friends quoted in the report said they doubted - or nearby, and Israeli forces responded with a tank shell. The Israeli military is investigating the case.
Abu al-Aish also attacked the international community for turning a blind eye to Gaza.
"Maybe this massacre will be the triggering factor to wake them up," he said. "I will continue in the same way that I believe in humanity, with Palestinians and Israelis."
-With files from The Canadian Press.