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Monday, April 28, 2008

Could these four kids have been killed by PalArab fire?

This morning a mother and four children were killed in Beit Hanoun. According to Palestinian Arab sources, they were killed by either an Israeli airstrike or tank shell, depending on who is being quoted.

While the IDF blames all civilian deaths in Gaza on terrorists operating out of crowded civilian centers, Ehud Barak's statement implies that Israel admits that it was probably its own fire that killed the family. And even Israeli newspapers are assuming that it was the IDF. Of course, wire services are also reporting that as fact.

But buried in the stories come paragraphs like these:
The IDF is looking into the incident, but has yet to obtain a full picture of what happened. Military sources noted that a group of gunmen was spotted shortly after 8 am near Givati forces operating in the area. An aircraft fired at them and hit them, while tanks fired shells towards the area.

"The area where the fighting is taking place is very crowded," a source said. "The terror organizations are knowingly operating near civilians and putting them in danger. We are thoroughly looking into the circumstances of the incident."

It is most difficult for a blogger like me to do a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the family's deaths from thousands of miles away, but it seems to me that the media needs to be cautious before making the assumption that this was Israeli fire.

First of all, Beit Hanoun has been the site of numerous Qassam rockets falling short of their targets, and they have damaged many houses and killed people as well.

Secondly, Israel did target and kill two terrorists 400 meters from the family home. While sometimes Israel makes mistakes and misses its targets (as apparently happened with the Reuters photographer) this is a pretty wide miss, especially in a populated area where Israel is much more careful.

More interesting is the fact that there were many mortars and rockets shot today from Gaza towards Israel.

Most intriguing is this paragraph from a Ma'an dispatch (that is missing some words in the beginning):

Palestinian fighters unleash barrage of projectiles and mortars at Israeli targets

responsibility on Monday afternoon for launching five homemade projectiles and three mortar shells at the Israeli towns of Sderot and Netiv Ha'asara and at Israeli forces invading Beit Hanoun.

Separately, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's (PFLP) military wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, said their fighters fired four homemade projectiles at Sderot. They also said they shot and injured an Israeli soldier.

Moreover, the PFLP's and Fatah's military wings said their fighters fired mortar shells at Israeli military vehicles in the northern Gaza Strip.

For their part, Islamic Jihad's military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing five mortar shells at Israeli military vehicles in the northern Gaza Strip.
At least four terror groups are claiming responsibility for shooting rockets and mortars in the northern Gaza Strip- which is exactly where Beit Hanoun is.

Right now, the only people claiming that this was an Israeli strike are Palestinian Arabs who are known to automatically blame Israel even when they are being killed by their own fire.

At the very least, it would seem premature to assume that this was Israel's fault at all.

UPDATE: From JPost:
The Palestinian mother and her four children who were killed Monday during IDF ops in Beit Hanun were not hit by a tank shell but rather were killed when ammunition carried by gunmen exploded, Army Radio quoted an IDF source as saying.

According to the unofficial source, the forces operating in the Gaza Strip town identified two gunmen who were carrying large bags. When the soldiers opened fire on them the bags exploded, causing the deaths of the family members.

I will wait a little for confirmation before adding this family to the self-death count, though.

UPDATE 2
:
The media made no visible effort to verify the claim, and nearly all English-language press ignored an Israeli army statement carried by Israel Radio and Army Radio explaining that there had been no artillery fire in the immediate area.

Army officials said that according to reports from the field, the civilian deaths occurred when terrorists wearing backpacks filled when ammunition used the house as cover during a firefight with Israeli troops. The ammunition exploded after being hit by Israeli fire, killing seven people and wounding six others.