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Split-Second Decision

The palestinian Ma’an News Agency triumphantly reports about the IDF admitting to a fatal error:

An Israeli military investigation has revealed that the three children killed by Israeli artillery fire on Wednesday were not in any way involved in resistance activity, but were just playing.

The Israeli military investigation was conducted through videotape analysis by a military monitor and showed that the three children of Abu Ghazala were not gathering rocket launchers, as the Israeli army at first claimed, but were playing hide-and-seek.

The investigation showed that the army was unable to determine the identity or age of the figures pictured on the military monitors.

The probe also revealed that the soldiers, who launched the rocket, realised that children were in the area, but were unable to change the path of the rocket.

The videotape showed a child leaving the location before the rocket exploded.

The military investigation claimed that the angle of the monitor cannot determine the age of the targets, or any aspects of their physical appearance.

The Israeli army admitted after the analysis of the videotape that the three children were playing hide-and-seek, which is why they entered and re-entered the area of the rocket launchers, and that they were not in fact loading and re-loading the launchers.

While this Ma’an report does not engage in falsities – except for its reference to the terrorism as “resistance activity” – it does exclude important contextual information, as will be evident when comparing to the Ha’aretz report.

The three Palestinian children killed in Gaza on Tuesday were only playing near rocket launchers targeted by Israeli troops, and were not connected with the terrorists, an army probe determined Thursday.

Ten-year-old Mahmoud Ghazal and his 12-year-old cousin, Yehiya Ghazal, died immediately. Their 10-year-old cousin Sara Ghazal was critically injured and died later.

The Israel Defense Forces said the children were killed after an army ground unit fired on Qassam launchers in the area. The launchers, which were pointed at Israel, were deployed in fields just outside Beit Hanun, near the Ghazal family’s home. According to the IDF, troops detected “unidentified movement and opened fire.”

In the initial IDF statement after the incident on Tuesday, the army said it “wishes to express sorrow” for the “use of children in terror attacks,” implying that the children had been sent by terrorists to collect the rocket launchers. The military has frequently accused terrorist organizations of using teenagers and children in this fashion.

But the probe, which was launched immediately after the incident, determined that the children were playing tag near the launchers, as revealed by army footage recording the incident. The video reportedly shows the children – who appear as figures whose age cannot be determined – approaching the launchers and then moving back, in a way that could be seen as suggesting that they were loading the launchers with rockets.

The terrain did not allow for direct observation of the area, so the army had to rely on aerial photography. The unit that launched the missile at the children used this visual feed to direct their fire, army sources told Haaretz.

The video does show one of the figures to be a child, army sources said, but this happened so close to the moment of impact that the troops were unable to abort in time.

IDF troops near the Gaza Strip are under orders to fire at rocket launchers only when terrorists approach them. The launchers themselves are easily replaceable and are of little value to the terrorist organizations, so the IDF prefers to target the terrorists who are directing the firing.

Clearly, the IDF did the correct thing under the circumstances, even though I am saddened by the tragic deaths of the children. The IDF had to act quickly, given that it appeared that the figures were about to fire rockets at civilians in Sderot.

Ultimately, the terrorists bear the responsibility for the children’s deaths, given that they are deliberately endangering their lives by using civilian areas to launch attacks on Israel.

Update: The AP report is surprisingly accurate, and includes this additional important piece of information:

The army and Palestinian witnesses have said in the past that militants regularly use children to retrieve rocket equipment after the projectiles are launched.

It also includes this quote from a palestinian attorney, who (significantly) apportions some of the blame to the palestinian terrorists.

Daoud Dirawi, a Palestinian attorney with the human rights group Defense for Children International, said both Israel and the militants are responsible.

“Israel certainly bears responsibility for attacking civilian areas, and killing civilians is a war crime. … At the same time, the Palestinian factions bear responsibility for avoiding any harm to Palestinian civilians and children in their military operations. Having children next to the rocket launchers endangers the children,” Dirawi said.

Update: In typically intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant fashion, anti-Israel blogger/nuisance Richard Silverstein unreservedly blames the IDF (here, but do not provide him with traffic by clicking on the link).

In the long and gruesome annals of IDF mayhem against children, this one deserves a special place of shame. It seems that three Palestinian Bedouins, 10-year-old Mahmoud Ghazal, his 12-year-old cousin, Yehiya Ghazal, and their 10-year-old cousin Sara Ghazal were playing tag last Tuesday in a Beit Hanun field just outside their home as children are wont to do. These particular kids had made a very bad mistake in playing near Palestinian rocket launchers. It so happens the launchers were being monitored by Israeli aerial reconnaissance. When the IDF saw the children approaching the launchers it too made a fateful error by assuming they were activating them. According to the IDF, while it saw the children approaching the launchers it only noticed they were children after artillery fire had been launched.

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This is what happens when the IDF acts hastily, indiscriminately and without sufficient technical means to ensure it has selected a valid target. It did not have the technical means to discriminate whether the individuals were adults terrorists or innocent children. Instead, it presumed the former with disastrous results. Disastrous only for feeling human beings. The IDF will certainly shed few tears and express perfunctory regret. After all, these were only Palestinian children and Bedouin at that.

Finally, if IDF video of the attack viewed after the attack showed clearly the children WERE children and playing tag, why couldn’t the IDF video taken BEFORE the attack have shown the same image?

May the childrens’ families be comforted in their sorrow and loss. And may the gunner who targeted them have many sleepless nights imagining the cries of these children after the shell hit.

Observations:

1. Despite Silverstein’s constant boasts of deep knowledge of events here, he has no way of knowing how the IDF feels after this tragedy. Claiming with certainty that “the IDF will certainly shed few tears and express perfunctory regret” is clearly a manifestation of his extreme bias against Israel. His jibe “After all, these were only Palestinian children and Bedouin at that” reinforces this.

2. Silverstein’s question as to why the IDF could not have relied on the video before the attack ignores the fact that this conclusion required some analysis. At the time, the IDF did not have the luxury of time. When they saw figures which appeared to be loading rocket launchers directed at Israel, the soldiers had to act quickly. Otherwise, the result may very well have been dead Israeli children. Which is something Silverstein obviously cares very little about.

Update: More of the same from Silverstein in the comments to his post. Here’s his response to a commenter who posits that the terrorists have been using the children as human shields:

The bit about human shields is preposterous. Just out & out propaganda. These children had nothing to do w. Hamas & you know it. You’re a vile, poisonous propagandist w. no regard for the truth.

And here’s this Silverstein gem:

Besides, if men with guns come and place a rocket launcher in the vicinity of your house what would you do? Argue w. them? You talk big fr. the comfort of yr nice home wherever you live.

Does Silverstein even realize how ridiculous he sounds?

Update: Of course, not all palestinian children are out collecting rocket launchers or playing tag near them. Some are making more productive use of their time, like attending rallies while holding heavy weaponry.

By the way, this picture was taken at an Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades rally – the group affiliated with moderate Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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