Monday, June 13, 2022

The Washington Post held its own investigation into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. Its flaws are immediately apparent:

“We were very sure there were no armed Palestinians, and no exchange of fire or clashes with the Israelis,” said [Ali al-]Samoudi, [an Al Jazeera news channel producer.]  Then, the journalists headed up the street, toward the Israeli convoy. “It was totally calm, there was no gunfire at all.” Suddenly, there was a barrage of bullets. One struck Samoudi. Another hit and ultimately killed Abu Akleh, as their colleagues scrambled for cover.

The shots seemed to come from the military vehicles, Samoudi recalled.
In the video that the Washington Post posted, the gunfire volley that causes the reporters to scramble happens at 7:06, but one can hear gunfire two minutes earlier at 5:02. 

More importantly, however, is that al-Samoudi contradicts another interview he gave the day of the shooting. 
After a few minutes, we heard the sound of bullets raining down on us from the side of the occupation soldiers who were on the roofs of the buildings opposite us , amid the screams of Palestinian citizens who call out to us: Get down on the ground, snipers are targeting you. . I was hit in the lower back, and Shireen screamed: "Ali was wounded, Ali was wounded."   
He said the gunfire was from roof of buildings opposite him then - and now he says they came from military vehicles. Which one is it?

Given his track record making up stories about Israel, captured in the 2003 film "The Road to Jenin," it is very likely that Samoudi at first thought that Israeli snipers were on the roofs. Once he found out they were not, he changed his story.

The Washington Post, of course, didn't ask him about it, and accepted his new story without question.

The key piece of evidence, as with the other analyses, comes from the calculation of the distance of the gunshots based on audio analysis. A different expert was used but he came up with a similar estimate. But note the Washington Post's sleight of hand in these paragraphs:
As videographer Awad] approaches an intersection, three rounds of gunfire are heard in the distance. Roughly two minutes later, he points the camera south revealing Israeli military vehicles about 182 meters (597 feet) away, according to The Post’s analysis of the footage.   
At The Post’s request, Steven Beck, an audio forensic expert who consulted for the FBI for more than a decade, conducted an analysis on the gunfire heard in the two separate videos. Beck found the first two bursts of gunfire, 13 shots in total, were shot from between 175-195 meters (574-640 feet) away from the cameras that recorded the scene — almost exactly the distance between the journalists and the Israeli military vehicles.
There are two problems with this paragraph. One is that even according to the Washington Post's own map, the IDF was not 597 feet (182 meters) away from the journalists, but 660 feet away (about 201 meters), according to both Bing Maps and Google Maps. Here are the two maps side by side, my Bing map annotated like the WaPo map for comparison (click to better see the Bing 660 foot measurement, the blue dot is the location of the camera):

200 meters is outside the 175-195 meter estimate. 

But see how the Post tries to deceive you further, saying that the 175-195 meters from the IDF to the cameras are almost exactly the distance from the IDF to the journalists

The cameras were 10-15 meters further than the journalists, meaning that the IDF was some 20 meters outside the range of the audio distance estimate of the gunfire!

I asked the expert used by CNN and Bellingcat, Rob Maher of Montana State University, if there were any circumstances like weather or wind that could stretch the 195 meter estimate to 210 or 215 meters. His answer was, "I think that if the average bullet speed is assumed to be at least 760 m/s, the effect of wind and temperature would only move the estimated distance by a few meters, not tens of meters."

In other words, if you read the Washington Post article carefully and measure the distances from their own map yourself, you can see that not only is the IDF too far to have shot Shireen, but not even conceivably close enough. And the Post further quotes their expert: "Beck said he used a number of different weapons that fire that caliber [5.56 mm] of round in his analysis, but there is little significant difference between them in determining the distance between Abu Akleh and the shooters." The speed of sound changes, but not that much; bullet speeds can change, but not that much. As far as I can tell, it is impossible to come up with a scenario where the IDF could have shot Shireen at that distance and generate the audio signature that is heard.

I don't know where the Washington Post got the 182 meter estimate, but I certainly cannot reproduce it. We have seen video of the IDF lead vehicle turn into the street shown on that map at its northmost end, so the map is accurately showing exactly where it was. There is no way that both Google and Bing Maps are off by some 10% in their distance estimates. 

The WaPo also shows the eight minute video I had analyzed showing a resident who filmed the IDF vehicles from where the journalists were. But they didn't bother to translate the conversation in the video, where - minutes before Abu Akleh was killed - people are joking about and pointing to snipers in buildings to the southeast of Abu Akleh. 

There is one more almost unbelievable omission in the Washington Post's analysis. Unlike the other media investigations, they notice the group of gunmen to the southwest of Abu Akleh, and show their video (#7), noting that the video was uploaded shortly after Abu Akleh was shot but they couldn't confirm the exact time it was taken. (Analysis of the shadows indicates it was taken within 10 minutes of her death but they didn't perform that analysis.) 

They show where Jenin militants were based on that video #7:

They don't measure the distance between those Palestinian fighters and Abu Akleh!

If they would, here is what they would find:

They were, at some points, the exact correct distance away from the camera!

I don't know if there is any line of sight from them to her. I doubt it, at that corner, based on photos by Mapillary. But there could have been holes in the wall at that corner. The Washington Post had enough data to look for such a line of sight in Jenin, and didn't bother to do it. Even though these are the only people with guns that they identified who were the proper distance away!

That is a glaring omission, and it shows how the "investigators" had a conclusion in mind and simply did not want to consider any other possibilities. 

As I mentioned and have previously reported, I think - based on Ali Samoudi and Shatha Hanaysha's interviews on the same day as the shooting - that she was shot by Palestinian snipers in a house shown to the immediate east of the place it says "580 ft" in the diagram above. Its roof is tall and there is a direct line of sight from there to Abu Akleh. We also know that Jenin militants often simply go to roofs of buildings and shoot wildly, as I showed in this post.

I also found another interview with Shatha Hanaysha, the woman next to Abu Akleh, saying:

We were facing a house and an open space. We were fired upon from an area above us and shots hit the tree I was standing behind from above. It was where Israeli occupation forces were. 
She is saying that the bullets came from above, similar to her previous statement that they came from a building. That is further indication that Shireen was killed by Palestinian snipers that she thought were IDF. (IDF snipers do not use 5.56 mm bullets.) 

One more data point. If there were snipers on roofs all over Jenin, as multiple witnesses attest, why do we not have video of any of them? 

One reason may be this message in the Jenin Telegram channel from 6:28 AM: "Please brothers, the family inside the houses, no one photograph the gunmen - pray for them." There were explicit instructions to avoid taking photos or videos of the militants, seemingly specifically the ones who barge into houses to take up sniper positions. The IDF would be aware of the people on the ground, but if I am reading this correctly, the leaders in the camp were trying to maintain a tactical advantage of hidden snipers where residents would know if gunmen were on their own roof but they might be hidden from the IDF.

In other words, the investigators using open source materials fall into the trap of thinking that the open source materials are an accurate and complete record, when in fact there are other factors that make them quite incomplete.

Put it all together, and the Washington Post investigators didn't even try to investigate anything beyond what they wanted to be true. If anything, they provided even more proof that Israel could not have killed Shireen Abu Akleh.

(correction - I originally said message not to video gunmen was 5:28, it was 6:28, h/t DigFind.)

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