Friday, June 09, 2006

Did someone say "Wolf"?

Here is how the Beeb reported this afternoon's news about the apparent deaths of 7 Palestinians on a Gaza beach: Hamas militants vow to end truce - but some things don't quite add up in the story, so I am going to pose a few questions as we go along...

The armed wing of the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, has said it will no longer respect a self-imposed truce. In a statement on its website, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade said Israeli "massacres" had spurred the decision.
- Is that the self-imposed truce where they were caught smuggling cash in for arms, the one where they turn a blind eye to other groups firing rockets and sending suicide bombers over the fence, or the one which foments internecine violence?

Seven people, including three children, died on Friday when Israeli shells hit a beach in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say. There was no immediate comment from Hamas's political wing, which runs the Palestinian Authority. Hamas's armed wing posted a message on its website and distributed leaflets declaring the end of a ceasefire that had held since February 2005. "The Israeli massacres represent a direct opening battle and that means the earthquake in the Zionist cities will resume and the herds of occupiers have no choice but to prepare the coffins or the departing luggage," the statement read. The BBC's Simon Wilson, in Jerusalem, says there have been threats of a response to previous attacks, but the official nature of this response appears significant.
- How come the Palestinian officials were so quick to show injured people lying on the beach, bloodstained picnic rugs etc, as well as issuing threatening statements that redefine the term "massacre", before taking their injured to hospital? Isn't it odd that such a major policy change should be announced so spontaneously, especially right after gruesome pictures were released to the international media?

The statement came hours after the seven reported deaths on a beach near the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. At least 30 people were wounded. The Israeli military said it had halted all shelling of Gaza and launched an inquiry into whether ground-based artillery could have been involved. Four other people were also killed in separate Israeli air strike in northern Gaza on Friday, Palestinians said. The incidents come a day after senior Palestinian official Jamal Abu Samhadana was killed in an Israeli air strike in Rafah, the southern Gaza.
- Doesn't it seem a little strange that Israel had halted all naval operations, but lots of Palestinian officials, who we assume must all have been on the beach by a happy coincidence, said that the shells came from Israeli gunships? And isn't it odd that Israel's prowess at surgical strikes that hit cars, get through windows, and pinpoint mobile rocket launch sites, goes missing altogether and kills an entire family on a beach? Would they do such a thing intentionally?

Samhadana - the founder of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) - was buried in Rafah on Friday, with thousands of mourners pledging to avenge his death. Samhadana was one of Israel's most wanted men in Gaza, and his group has been blamed for a series of missile attacks on Israel. Speaking before the Hamas statement, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli strikes in Gaza. "What the Israeli occupation forces are doing in the Gaza Strip constitutes a war of extermination and bloody massacres against our people," Mr Abbas said in a statement carried by the Palestinian official Wafa news agency.
- Isn't Abbas the "moderate" one? Why does the accurately targetted killing of Samhadana, a known and recognised terrorist planner, with no collateral damage other than his henchmen, provoke a reaction of claims about extermination and massacres?

The foreign ministers of Russia and the UK also condemned the strike.
- Are those the foreign ministers of the countries that respectively butcher civilians in Chechnya and falsely arrest then have to release (or shoot on a train) perfectly innocent people?

Palestinian officials say the seven people killed on the Gaza Strip beach included two women as well as the three children. The first television pictures revealed a terrible scene, the BBC's Alan Johnston says. At least four figures lay unconscious on the ground, possibly dead, our correspondent says. A little further away, a man was lying on a sand dune, perhaps fatally injured, while a child stood looking on in utter horror, our correspondent says. He says around the casualties were tables and chairs, and it looks very much as if this was a family enjoying their Friday afternoon off on the beach when disaster struck.
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Why was everyone busy filming the scene rather than helping the injured? How could Alan Johnston comment on their injuries? Was he there? And if so, why was he not trying to assist them? If not, what qualifies him to diagnose their injuries?

An Israeli army spokesman said Chief of Staff Dan Halutz had ordered an immediate stop to all artillery shelling of Gaza while an investigation was carried out into the beach shelling. For many months, the Israelis have regularly shelled open areas such as fields and orchards in an effort to prevent Palestinian militants using them to fire their home-made missile into crudely made missiles into nearby Israeli territory.
- Shouldn't this paragraph, which explains why Israel shells open spaces in Gaza, get more prominence? Doesn't it demonstrate the order of cause and effect quite clearly?

I'm not saying that nothing happened on the beach. I'm not saying that in some diabolical plot, Hamas or some other provocateurs, killed their own people so they could blame Israel and end their truce. I'm not saying that Israel must be blameless, and never kills civilians. Indeed, it seems that ordinary families died, and that is tragic. But this whole story is full of curiosities and inconsistencies, and above all, implies that Israel intentionally shelled the Gaza beach on a day it knows to be a rest day when it would be full of ordinary people having a break. It will be interesting to see what else is revealed in the next few days as the fact emerge.

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