Friday, January 29, 2010

As we wait for the IDF response to Goldstone to be released, I looked a little further into the Al Badr flour mill incident that Goldstone chose as a perfect example of Israel trying to starve Gazans to death.

As the New York Times reported:
The Goldstone report asserts that the Bader flour mill “was hit by an airstrike, possibly by an F-16.” The Israeli investigators say they have photographic proof that this is false, that the mill was accidentally hit by artillery in the course of a firefight with Hamas militiamen.

The dispute is significant since the United Nations report asserts that “the destruction of the mill was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population,” an explicit war crime.

It turns out that Goldstone had photographic proof that the flour mill was not hit by airstrikes as well - and purposefully ignored it.

The Goldstone commission asked UNITAR, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, to examine and analyze publicly available satellite images of various locations in Gaza to determine the dates and extent of damage. One of the sites was the infamous flour mill.

From Goldstone:
The Mission visited the site of the air strikes and surveyed the surrounding area in Sudaniyah, west of Jabaliyah. It met and interviewed the Hamada brothers, joint owners of the el-Bader flour mill, on four occasions. It spoke with representatives of the business community about the context and consequences of the strike on the flour mill. Mr. Hamada also testified at the public hearings in Gaza.493...

919. On 9 January, at around 3 or 4 a.m., the flour mill was hit by an air strike, possibly by an F-16. The missile struck the floor that housed one of the machines indispensable to the mill’s functioning, completely destroying it. The guard who was on duty at the time called Mr. Hamada to inform him that the building had been hit and was on fire. He was unhurt. In the next 60 to 90 minutes the mill was hit several times by missiles fired from an Apache helicopter. These missiles hit the upper floors of the factory, destroying key machinery. Adjoining buildings, including the grain store, were not hit. The strikes entirely disabled the factory and it has not been back in operation since.

922. The Mission found the Hamada brothers to be credible and reliable witnesses. It has no reason to doubt the veracity of their testimony
So, Goldstone reports based on the credible Hamada brothers that the flour mill was struck by F-16s and Apache helicopters on January 9th.

What did UNITAR say?
The Al-Badr Flour Factory of Sudaniyya appears in the satellite imagery to be composed of multiple building sites situated along the north side of El-Bahar Street. Based on the detailed assessment from the imagery, the only visible damages detected to the factory complex are to the southernmost building which was severely damaged along the southeastern side. The damages appear to have occurred between 16 and 18 January 2009. Within the immediate 500m vicinity of the factory complex there are a total of 43 detected damage sites, including 33 destroyed or severely damaged buildings. The majority of this identified damages occurred between 10 and 18 January 2009. There are clear indications in the imagery of extensive IDF tank movement and related damage to both buildings and vegetation cover in this area during the last three days of the conflict. It is probable, given
the damage signatures, that the majority of damage in this area was caused by intense IDF ground fire. It is important to note that because of the angle of satellite imagery acquisition, it is possible that severe damage to the north and eastern side of the flour factory buildings has not been detected.
UNITAR, based on a time sequence of satellite images, finds that all the damage seems to have occurred a full week after Goldstone's "credible witnesses" said it was strafed by multiple air attacks - while the IDF was on the ground, fighting. And damage on the upper floors done by Apache helicopters would presumably be visible on satellite images.

Here is UNITAR's image, and what Google shows there in an image copyrighted 2009 but that appears to have been taken beforehand:

As we have seen many times, Goldstone fully accepted testimony from Gazans as being credible, even when there was abundant evidence showing otherwise. And in this case, the evidence was information that he himself commissioned!

UPDATE: The IDF report is out, and it says that tank shells did hit an upper floor of the flour mill on January 9th, returning fire. Afterwards, it coordinated firefighters to come and put out the fire. No airstrikes as Goldstone asserts. The IDF report also states that no IDF soldiers were on the roof of the mill (where they would be exposed to enemy fire,) where Hamada testified he found multiple bullets.

So apparently there was fire on the 9th that would have not been picked up by satellite, but it was not from airstrikes as Goldstone and Hamada claimed. The fire was justified as part of a battle.

There was clearly fighting in that neighborhood, as PCHR records that every person killed in that area outside December 27th was a militant. The IDF could not say conclusively that the flour mill was used by Hamas but it says it has some evidence that it was so.


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