By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dedi Hayun

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian doctor appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday for compensation over the killing of his three daughters and a niece in an Israeli strike in Gaza in 2009.

Israel has long acknowledged that one of its tanks killed the four during a three-week offensive against Palestinian militants.

But it argued successfully in a lower court in 2018 that the deaths of Izzeldin Abuelaish’s daughters Mayar, 15, Ayah, 13, and Bessan, 21, and his niece Nour, 14, stemmed from an “act of war”, thereby shielding the state from damages claims.

“I hope the judges will side with the truth and justice and help me achieve justice for my daughters and niece,” Abuelaish told Reuters.

At the hearing in Jerusalem, a lawyer for the Israeli Defence Ministry again cited the “act of war” argument. An attorney for Abuelaish said the military should be seen as criminally negligent, leaving the state open to damage claims.

The court said it would announce its decision at a later date, which it did not specify, on Abuelaish’s appeal against the 2018 ruling.

“This is a tragedy that stood out. It should be noted that we share in your sorrow,” Justice Yitzhak Amit said, after Abuelaish addressed the court, appealing to the three judges to listen to his plea “with an open heart”.

An Israeli military investigation in 2009 said soldiers thought they had identified Hamas militants on the upper level of the doctor’s home.

It said that two tank shells were fired, but once “screams were heard”, an order was immediately given to curtail the strike.

Abuelaish, a Hebrew-speaking gynaecologist who has worked in Israeli hospitals and now lives in Canada, was live on the phone with an Israeli television reporter providing an update on the Gaza fighting when the blasts occurred.

“My God, my girls,” he cried into the phone.

Now, Abuelaish said, he wants an apology from Israel and compensation, planning to use any funds he receives to expand the “Daughters for Life” foundation he established.

It offers educational opportunities for young women from the Middle East, including from Israel.

“I did my best, and I will continue to do my best till I meet them one day,” said Abuelaish before heading to Gaza to visit his daughters’ graves.

(Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi in Gaza and Dedi Hayun in Jerusalem; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Hugh Lawson)