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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

New York Times criticizes Israel for trying to save Arab lives (update)



This is really sickening reporting by the New York Times:

The call came to the cellphone of his brother’s wife, Salah Kaware said Tuesday. Mr. Kaware lives in Khan Younis, in southeast Gaza, and the caller said that everyone in the house must leave within five minutes, because it was going to be bombed.

A further warning came as the occupants were leaving, he said in a telephone interview, when an Israeli drone apparently fired a flare at the roof of the three-story home. “Our neighbors came in to form a human shield,” he said, with some even going to the roof to try to prevent a bombing. Others were in the stairway when the house was bombed not long afterward.

Seven people died, Mr. Kaware said, a figure also stated by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, which also said that 25 people were wounded. The Israeli military said that targeted houses belonged to Hamas members involved in launching rockets or other military activity, and that they had been used as operations rooms.

But the events on Tuesday were another example of a contentious Israeli policy in which occupants of a building about to be bombed or shelled are given a brief warning in Arabic to evacuate. The Israelis have used such telephone calls and leaflets for years now, in a stated effort to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings or even of crimes against the rules of war.

During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008, the Israelis often used telephone calls and leaflets to tell occupants to leave before striking. In some cases, the Israelis fired missiles without explosive warheads onto the roof to get Palestinians who had gathered there to leave. The Israelis called it “the knock on the roof.” But often, as in the Khan Younis case on Tuesday, people die in any case, because they ignore or defy the warnings, or try to leave after it is too late.

And, of course, sometimes bombs and missiles do not hit the building at which they are aimed.

The Israelis also regularly drop leaflets over Gaza urging citizens not to cooperate with terrorism and to stay away from border zones, an injunction that has been criticized by human rights advocates, like the Palestinian organization Al-Haq, which argue that such leaflets do not protect Israel from allegations of the indiscriminate killing of civilians.
Where to begin?

The article clearly states that Gazans are deliberately putting themselves in harm's way, knowing that a rocket is coming and deciding to act as human shields anyway. The residents of the building made the decision to stay. (Those in the stairwells are not described as trying to flee, rather the implication is that they were heading to the roof as well. An earlier version of the article wrongly said the opposite.)

Also, if there was only a five minute period between the warning and the human shields assembling, the targets in the house must have been the people calling their neighbors to act as human shields.

But even though Gazans decide to go into an area about to be bombed, the Times is slamming Israel's policy of warning them. The IDF sacrifices the element of surprise in order to save lives; even though the terrorist leaders in the houses are legitimate military targets (yes, under the Geneva Conventions) who can live another day to attack Israelis if they heed the warning, as most do.

And the NYT criticizes Israel.

Article 28 of the Geneva Conventions, to which "Palestine" is legally bound, says "The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations." That is exactly what the Hamas human shields are doing.

The NYT and Al Haq and HRW which is also quoted in the article do not have a negative word to say about the flagrant Palestinian violation of international law but they criticize Israel for going beyond international law in an attempt to save the lives of its enemies.

(h/t David G)

UPDATE: Here is what the article said at one point, before it was edited out - apparently for not having been true:

A telephoned warning was made to the owner of the targeted home in Khan Younis five minutes before the bombing, apparently part of the Israeli military’s stated effort to minimize unintended civilian casualties. Salah Kaware, 25, who lived in the house, said that a call came to the cellphone of his brother’s wife, and that the caller urged them to leave. Some of the occupants were descending the upper floor stairway when the roof was hit with a rocket, Mr. Kaware said in a telephone interview.

A few hours later, the sentence "Some of the occupants were descending the upper floor stairway when the roof was hit with a rocket, Mr. Kaware said in a telephone interview." was deleted.

Clearly, either the reporters (at the time the article was credited to Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram) made the idea up that residents were leaving the house at the time of the bombing, or they realized that Kaware was lying when he said so, but that wasn't important enough to mention. And during that time the "human shield" part of the story was missing from the NYT.