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Monday, September 21, 2009

Goldstone report inaccuracies, part 12 (updated)

The Goldstone report talks about the bombing of the al-Maqadmah mosque on January 3rd:
820. The al-Maqadmah mosque is situated near the north-west outskirts of Jabaliyah camp, close to Beit Lahia. It is located less than 100 metres from the Kamal Idwan hospital, in the al-Alami housing project. At least 15 people were killed and around 40 injured – many seriously – when the Israeli armed forces struck the entrance of the mosque with a missile.
The report goes into some detail that the mosque was indeed bombed by Israel, and the IDF responses to the charges seem to be very inadequate:
829. The Israeli armed forces’ response to the allegations states:
...relating to a strike against the “Maqadme” mosque in Beit-Lahiya on January 3rd, 2009, it was discovered that as opposed to the claims, the mosque was not attacked at all. Furthermore, it was found that the supposed uninvolved civilians who were the casualties of the attack were in fact Hamas operatives killed while fighting against the IDF.

830. Apart from the apparent contradictions it contains, the Mission notes that the statement does not indicate in any way the nature of the inquiry, the source of its information or the reliability and credibility of such sources.

831. In July 2009 the Israeli Government repeated the same position.463
I have no indication that the mosque was not hit by IDF forces, and I have no reason to doubt Goldstone concerning the matter; they appear to have found forensic evidence that indicates it was an Israeli strike rather than a Hamas bomb.

There are a couple of inconsistencies, however. The claim that at least 15 were killed seems to have come from the initial PCHR report of the incident, which lists 12 people killed and claims that three more died in the following days. However, PCHR only lists 11 to have died in the Jabalya refugee camp on January 3rd; and additional 3 died in Beit Lahiya on that date (one of whom was listed in the initial PCHR report), and I found one who died later, so it is possible that 15 were killed if all of the Beit Lahiya victims were in the mosque as well, but the PCHR report indicated that three of them died at a later date and that is not reflected in the final list.

More importantly, Goldstone doesn't bother to point out that 6 of the dead were actually terrorists: (numbers are PCHR list numbers)

458 ‘Umar Abdul Hafez Mousa al-Silawi Al Qassam Brigades
459 Ra’ed Abdul Rahman Mohammed al-Msamha (pictured, unclear of affiliation)
462 Sa’id Salah Sa’id Battah Al Qassam Brigades
478 Muhannad Ibrahim ‘Ata al-Tannani Al Quds Brigades member
484 Ibrahim Mousa Issa al-Silawi Al Qassam Brigades
987 Ahmed Hamed Hassan Abu ‘Eita Al Qassam Brigades

It seems to be very unlikely that 6 of the 15 known dead in a mosque crowded with hundreds of civilians would be terrorists. Either the mosque itself had a hundred terrorists or so, or something else is going on. (Jonathan D. Halevi counts 7 dead terrorists).

Could there have been an attack from the area of the mosque? Could an informant have given the IDF information of the whereabouts of known terrorists? I don't know, and unfortunately the IDF isn't giving out any verifiable information about the incident, but this does not seem to be the "slam-dunk" that Goldstone represents it as.

And where exactly did the blast hit? Apparently, it hit outside the mosque, not inside as Goldstone implies. So it seems more likely that the IDF hit a gathering of terrorists outside the mosque rather than a few hundred worshipers. (h/t Suzanne)

At the very least, these avenues should have been pursued, using any means that Goldstone had at their disposal - the same means I and my team has had to verify the militant status of many civilians. Unfortunately, fairness does not seem to have been a part of the Goldstone mandate, and when the evidence supports the commissions preconceived notions of the truth, they have had little incentive to look beyond the biased testimonies they eagerly accepted.

Testimony from people like the sheikh of the mosque - who happens to share the same last name as two of the Al Qassam Brigades members listed above.

(UPDATE: Added one more I missed. And added about the blast hitting outside the mosque.)