Thursday, May 26, 2022

On Tuesday night, I wrote up an analysis that explained why I felt that it was likely that the IDF had accidentally killed Shireen Abu Akleh.

I was very bothered all day, because I simply couldn't figure out a plausible way for Palestinian militants in the areas we knew them to be to have fired the shots that was consistent with the audio analysis I had been doing, calculating the distance of the gunfire using the roughly 300 millisecond difference in time between the shockwave from the bullet and the muzzle sound (the bullet is much faster than sound.)

After I wrote it up, I realized something that bothered me far, far more. Two of the gunshots that were heard later on in the video had a similar audio signature, and those were the ones that seemed to be aimed at the reporters trying to retrieve Shireen's body. That appears to be targeted fire towards the reporters, not a mistake from aiming elsewhere. There is simply no way the IDF would be deliberately aiming at the reporters as CNN and Bellingcat and AP believe - but I could not find a plausible alternative theory. 

But thanks to Jon C., writing at Israellycool, there is not only a plausible theory - but a far better one.

He notes that there was another group of militants that were in the area at roughly the same time, to the southeast, as seen in this video taken facing north:

They were located in this tweet. Light blue is the position of the photographer, yellow is the direction they are walking, purple is where they are, red is where Abu Akleh was killed.

Ground-level photos of the area are not complete. The ones I have seen show a wall, one reason I didn't look closer at this yesterday, and also because I assumed that they would be firing towards the IDF convoy directly to their west - a very visible target. The audio analysis did not support that scenario.

However, that video is only a point in time. Further north, for example, there is an opening in the wall to the north  and there are very possibly others. And sometimes there are holes in the walls of the area that can be used for firing positions.

Furthermore, we know from other video that at least some militants were firing from roofs. There are plenty of buildings there that could be used as a firing position, either from a roof or from windows. The video above, after all, was clearly made from an upper floor or a roof.

The point is that the area of the militants in this video are at the correct distance to fit the audio analysis.

Jon C. makes a very salient point:
 I have been extremely curious about the possibility that Palestinian gunmen could have mistaken Abu Aqleh and her team for IDF soldiers. If they saw helmets just above the wall, from the side, through the brush, it could be easy to mistake them for soldiers.
We know that the militants from the south shouted out that an IDF soldier was down. They might have themselves  seen Abu Akleh fall from the roof, but they might have also heard it from a cellphone or walkie talkie from the militants we are looking at.

This is what the scene looks like from where Abu Akleh was towards the southeast. The tarp and brush across from her would seem to allow lots of partial views of her and the reporters - reporters that made sure the IDF knew where they were but who didn't tell the other side.

From a distance of 170 meters, without a scope and in the heat of battle,  and with bushes and trees partially obscuring the view, it is very plausible that trigger happy Palestinians were shooting at anything that looked vaguely military - meaning reporters in flak jackets with helmets. And if they were convinced that they shot a soldier, then they would also want to shoot at anyone who went to help that downed soldier.

This is exactly what Palestinian terrorists would do. This is not what the IDF would do.

Also, I was bothered by the speed of the volleys of gunshots - that did not appear to fit the IDF pattern of one shot at a time. I couldn't figure out any alternative explanation. Palestinian terrorists with the same M16 guns, though, would squeeze off as many shots as they could. And this also explains the inaccuracy of the bullet holes in the tree next to Abu Akleh - a professional soldier from 200 meters away would not shoot so wildly.

B'Tselem had someone on the scene within hours to debunk the theory that they (falsely) claimed the IDF floated that the gunman in one video was actually shooting at Abu Akleh. But there are no NGOs or reporters who have gone on the scene in the past two weeks to look at evidence that Palestinians could have shot Abu Akleh, including from AP or CNN. They went to confirm their biased ideas, not to look objectively at the possibilities. 

The firing patterns, timing, and evident aiming at helmeted figures by non-professionals fit this pattern better than what I had written. We are missing pieces of the puzzle - namely finding a line of sight from the southeast and then measuring exact distances - but this is a far better and more likely theory than my earlier thoughts that only the IDF was the appropriate distance away.

UPDATE: CNN shows the location of the bullet holes in the tree that was next to Abu Akleh. The top one could not have easily come from the direct south where the IDF was, it came more from the east. The only way all three bullet holes make sense is firing from the southeast, not due south. 

UPDATE 2/3: Adin Haykin noticed something that makes it seemingly impossible for the IDF to have shot the bullets at the tree. 

The tree is behind a building from the south!

Here's the tree from the north in one of the last scenes where Abu Akleh is alive:

It is hard to tell from that photo that the trunk is set back from the street and behind the building, but this Bing satellite view makes it very clear:

There appears to be no angle to allow a shot from where the IDF was to hit that tree!

This is not 100%. This screenshot shows the tree and an IDF armored vehicle (h/t DigFind.) 

But from this angle it is hard to tell where the building edge is - it is behind the foliage. We cannot assume that the center of the tree in the satellite image is the trunk. But between this and the bullet hole on the east side of the tree, chances of IDF fire hitting it are low.

UPDATE 4: Here's the best angle I can find of the tree, and it still isn't clear if the tree could be hit by IDF fire (but people in the street certainly could.) 

UPDATE 4A: Parts of the trunk do seem to be line of sight (although the angle is suspect), so until I find out more this is not a fruitful avenue.

UPDATE 5: Bellingcat's analysis of the distance from the gun to Shireen says that the gun was between 177 and 184 meters away, and it draws this picture that showed that the IDF position is about 20 meters outside that radius:

They don't address that discrepancy, saying, "This estimate more closely aligns with the approximate distance between the IDF position and the site of the journalist’s killing than between the latter and the location of the armed groups."

In other words, since it is a relatively small discrepancy and they cannot think of anyone else who might be in that range, we have to accept that the scientific calculation is a little bit off. 

However, the distance that they should be measuring is from the camera (whose microphone captures the sounds) and not from Shireen. Moreover, they need to extend the radius to not only include the street going south, but all potential places that terrorists can be.

So their map should look like this:

The IDF is now some 40 meters outside the range. The differences in muzzle velocity and temperature would not account for that large a discrepancy. 

But the range does include the places we saw the militants in the video above.

UPDATE 6: Like the first few seconds of this video, showing at least 15 militants in that exact area shown above. Do they look like a disciplined crew, or do they look like people who are hunting soldiers and who will shoot at anything they see with a helmet? (h/t Jonah B)

We still don't have proof of line of sight, but all we need for that is someone from a major media company to go and check it out, because they are sworn to uphold objectivity and to dig for the truth, no matter where it takes them.....right?

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