Friday, March 20, 2015

  • Friday, March 20, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
Yesterday, Israel's Military Advocate General came out with a new report (part 3) describing the circumstances of several incidents from Operation Protective Edge that had been described as "war crimes" by the media and NGOs.

One case was the Israeli strike of the al-Bakri family on August 4. This case had been covered by Amnesty International, B'Tselem and media outlets.

This report from ABC Australia from November is typical:
Almost four months on, I have been drawn back to Gaza by the face of a seven-year-old girl.

Her name is Aseel Al-Bakri.

The last time I saw her was on August 4. She was lying in a morgue at Gaza's Shifa Hospital, a few hours after an Israeli air strike had killed her.

That day, the ABC crew in Gaza had arrived at her house, just minutes after it had been crushed from above.

The concrete structure was a crumpled mess of twisted metal and the destroyed remnants of a family's life.

We watched and filmed as the girl's tiny body was rushed out on a stretcher, and thousands of Palestinians swarmed around the rubble in the summer heat.

Ever since, I have wondered why Aseel Al-Bakri's home was targeted by an Israeli bomb. So I have come back to Gaza to find out.

On the morning of August 4 Haneen and her little sister Aseel had just returned from buying falafel.

Their mother Ibtisam was baking bread and the family was preparing to eat breakfast.

That is the last thing the children remember. Their next recollection is waking up in a Gaza hospital and being told that their mother and two sisters were dead.

Mr Al-Bakri is a religious man. He stoically insists that his wife and two children are now in a better place.

"It was very sad for me to discover what happened," he said.

"But we believe in God and we wish that they are all now in heaven."

When pressed, he opens up a little more about the family's trauma.

"I can't explain what I'm feeling right now. I can't hide my sadness. I feel stressed and depressed," he said.

I ask him why he thinks it was bombed, and whether he has any links with any of the militant factions operating in Gaza.

"I don't believe the stories about them [Israel] only hitting wanted people or militants," he said.

"Myself, I work as a dustman. I do my work and go home. I'm a simple guy, not involved with any activists or organisations."
The correspondent, Hayden Cooper, didn't bother to check out that B'Tselem reported that one of those killed in the house was not named al-Bakri, but Ibrahim al-Misharawi. Why was he there?

As I had already documented last August, Misharawi was a member of Islamic Jihad - a small fact that Cooper didn't bother to investigate months later, even though he claims to have gone back to Gaza specifically to find out the circumstances. No, he went back to Gaza to try to win an award for tear-jerking reporting.

Soon after, Amnesty International released its own report, and they did a slightly better job while still concluding that Israel had no business hitting the home. After 12 paragraphs of describing how horrible the bombing was, including two interviews of victims, Amnesty reluctantly admits:

Although family members denied it, both Ramadan Kamal al-Bakri and Ibrahim alMashharawi were members of Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, as was confirmed when, after some weeks, their names appeared on their list of “martyrs.”
But their investigation ended there, with this conclusion:
If Ramadan Ahmad al-Bakri and Ibrahim Mohammad al-Mashharawi were the intended targets, in view of the fact that there were 21 people in the house at the time, the Israeli forces should have taken necessary precautions to minimize the risk to civilians in the house, either by giving a warning or by choosing a time and means of targeting him that was less likely to kill civilians.
They didn't bother to find out if there were any other targets in the house besides "only" two Islamic Jihad members.

Ramadan al-Bakri's martyr poster

The MAG report from Israel fills in the blanks:

According to the factual findings collated by the FFA Mechanism and presented to the MAG, the strike in question was aimed at Omar Al-Rahim, a senior commander, at a rank equivalent to that of a deputy brigade commander, in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization. Al-Rahim was staying in the house of Ramadan Al-Bakri, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant. During the target planning process, it was assessed that there might be a number of civilians present in the building, but that the extent of the harm expected to these civilians would not be excessive in relation to the significant military advantage anticipated to result from the strike. It was planned that the strike on the building would be carried out using a precise munition, and in a way in which would allow achieving the aim of the strike whilst minimizing harm to the surrounding buildings.

After the event, as a result of the strike, the target, Omar Al-Rahim, was severely injured, and Ibrahim Al-Masharawi, who was a senior commander at a rank equivalent to a battalion commander in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was killed, along with Ramadan Al-Bakri, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant, and four civilians.

After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism, the MAG found that the targeting process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The decision to strike was taken by the competent authorities and aimed at a lawful target – a senior commander in Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The strike complied with the principle of proportionality, as at the time the decision was taken, it was considered that the collateral damage expected from the strike would not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated from it. Moreover, the strike was carried out while undertaking precautionary measures which aimed to mitigate the risk of civilian harm, with an emphasis on those who were present in the surrounding buildings. Such measures included, inter alia, the choice of munition to be used, as well as the deployment of real-time visual coverage. Additionally, it was found that the provision of a specific warning prior to the attack, to the people present in the structure in which the target was located, or to those in adjacent buildings, was not required by law and was expected to result in the frustration of the strike's objective.

In light of these findings, the MAG did not find that the actions of IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident.
The MAG explains why it didn't give a warning, and that Omar al-Rahim was a significant enough target to put civilians at risk. A decision like this is the right of a reasonable military commander to make.

Despite Amnesty's finding that two of the dead were Islamic Jihad members, one of them from the family itself, it didn't think to investigate further to find out if perhaps there was a bigger target that they were protecting. That target was Omar al Rahim.

The facts show that not only did the IDF act proportionately under the laws of armed conflict, but Islamic Jihad was using the al-Bakri family as human shields - a war crime that Amnesty and B'Tselem don't bother to investigate.

Islamic Jihad's tribute to Ramadan doesn't even mention the family members killed in the attack. To them, he is the only victim worth memorializing. They are the ones who don't care about human lives, not Israel.

Even more depraved was that Ramadan al-Bakri happily chose to sacrifice his own family in order to shield al-Rahim and al-Misharawi. 

Such is the sick culture of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Good luck waiting for HRW and Amnesty (and Hayden Cooper)  to mention it.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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