Beyond Images Challenging Myths and Presenting Facts About Israel
“Is this a struggle for freedom?”
The murder of Tali Hatuel and her daughters

London - published on 9 May 2004
Beyond Images Ref: 91

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34-year old Tali Hatuel and her four daughters were shot dead by Palestinian gunmen on 2 May 2004. This Briefing describes the event, and its aftermath. The reactions which we highlight require no further comment.

The murder of an Israeli family

Tali Hatuel lived in the Gaza settlement of Gush Katif with her husband David and their four daughters Hila (11), Hadar (9), Roni (7) and Merav (2). At the time of the killings, Tali Hatuel was 8 months pregnant, and expecting a boy. She was a social worker who devoted much of her time to helping Israelis who had lost relatives in terror attacks.

On the Sunday afternoon of 2 May 2004, Tali Hatuel drove her daughters after school to meet her husband in the nearby town of Ashkelon. As they were driving on the Kissufim road leading out of the Gaza Strip the car was ambushed by two Palestinian gunmen.

The car, riddled with bullet-holes, span off the road. The gunmen approached and shot Tali Hatuel and each of her four daughters at point blank range.

Israeli troops who rushed to the scene killed the two terrorists, who were identified as residents of the southern Gaza town of Rafah. In a call to the Associated Press, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for the attack. (The Popular Resistance Committees are linked to the Fatah faction led by Yasser Arafat).

It was reported in various newspapers that official Voice of Palestine radio hailed the gunmen as “heroic martyrs”.

Several thousand mourners attended the Hatuel funerals the same evening. “You were my flowers and I will not forget you” sobbed David Hatuel, over the shrouded bodies of his family.

Haim Ben Aryeh, neighbour of the Hatuel family:

“They were a true Israeli family – good, quiet people who loved education and they raised four model children…..”

Israeli president Moshe Katsav, who attended the funeral, said:

“Arab leaders should be ashamed of the atrocity… You are a disgrace, talking about Allah while a mother and four children are murdered. Is this what you call a struggle for freedom?”

Writer Judith Weil (letter from Jerusalem, Jewish Tribune, 6 May 2004)

“Israelis wonder whether their efforts to live normal lives have resulted in their becoming inured to reports of the repeated terrorist attacks the country has experienced during the course of recent years.

They learned this week that it was not so. In shops and in offices, in personal conversations and on the buses, in doctors’ waiting rooms and in schools, there was only one thing on everyone’s mind, the terrible catastrophe – and the terrible wickedness – that took the lives of four innocent little girls and those of their mother and unborn brother….”

Palestinian source commenting on the Palestinian Authority position (as reported in Ha’aretz 3 May 2004)

“There is no chance they will express reservations” [and indeed the PA has remained silent about the attack – Beyond Images]

Amnesty International (website statement)

“The deliberate killing by Palestinian armed groups of a pregnant woman and her four young daughters shows once again that these groups utterly disregard the most fundamental principles of international law, notably the absolute prohibition on the targeting of civilians. Amnesty International condemns these murders in the strongest terms. Amnesty International reiterates its call on all Palestinian armed groups to put an immediate end to the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians, in Israel and in the Occupied Territories”

The Voice of Palestine Radio (reported by Arabic speaking journalist Michael Widlanski)

“The radio station repeatedly used the term is tish-had (heroic martyrdom) and mustash-hidin (heroic martyrs) to describe the act of the “two youths”. After reporting the attackers’ names it repeated that they were “heroic martyrs”.

Israeli writer Naomi Ragen (email bulletin)

“We will not add five more numbers to those slain. We will not turn the Hatuel family into a statistic. We will not forget those five bodies wrapped in white shrouds, lowered into the ground. The four little Jewish girls, and their mother, pregnant and about to give birth to her first son. We will not call them “settler” and thus say: it is all right for armed men to put a gun to the head of a two year old and shoot her twice, after letting her watch her mother die. It is not all right for Yasser Arafat to praise the men he sent out to murder them as “heroic martyrs”. We will not allow the international conspiracy of the world press to hide what happened here, to succeed.

Ramember Tali. Remember her daughters. Hila, Hadar, Roni, Merav. Remember. Say the names on every street corner. Shout out your anger, your disgust. Cry out for justice. Don’t let them be forgotten. Never. Never. Never. Never. Never.