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Sunday, February 15, 2009

The UNRWA school story was a lie

The Jerusalem Post has seen the (still incomplete) IDF list of people killed in Gaza, and the story that Hamas (as well as the Palestinian Health Ministry, UNRWA and PCHR) have been telling the media are absolute lies:
While the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, whose death toll figures have been widely cited, reports that 895 Gaza civilians were killed in the fighting, amounting to more than two-thirds of all fatalities, the IDF figures shown to the Post on Sunday put the civilian death toll at no higher than a third of the total.

The international community had been given a vastly distorted impression of the death toll because of "false reporting" by Hamas, said Col. Moshe Levi, the head of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), which compiled the IDF figures.

As an example of such distortion, he cited the incident near a UN school in Jabalya on January 6, in which initial Palestinian reports falsely claimed IDF shells had hit the school and killed 40 or more people, many of them civilians.

In fact, he said, 12 Palestinians were killed in the incident - nine Hamas operatives and three noncombatants. Furthermore, as had since been acknowledged by the UN, the IDF was returning fire after coming under attack, and its shells did not hit the school compound.

"From the beginning, Hamas claimed that 42 people were killed, but we could see from our surveillance that only a few stretchers were brought in to evacuate people," said Levi, adding that the CLA contacted the PA Health Ministry and asked for the names of the dead. "We were told that Hamas was hiding the number of dead."
This is so amazing that I decided to go back to the PCHR website and see exactly what they reported that day from the UNRWA school, since they typically give the names of the dead:
At approximately 15:35, IOF tanks fired 4 shells at Jabalya refugee camp. On the shells hit a house belonging to Samir Shafeeq Deeb, 43, Killing him and his mother, Shamma Salem Deeb, 70; three of his children: 'Essam, 12, Mohammad, 23, and Fatima, 20; five of his brother's children: Nour, 2, Mustafa, 12, Mohammad, 17, Aseel, 7, and Alaa', 19; and his brother's wife, Amal Matar Deeb, 34. The other three shells hit al-Fakhoura School which was sheltering approximately dozens of families who fled their homes in Beit Lahia, Killing 27 civilians instantly, including 8 children, 2 brothers ans a man and his son, and wounding at least 50 civilians. IOF claimed that the school was used by Hamas to launch attacks on Israel. UNRWA sources and eyewitnesses completely refuted this claim. However, the justification used by IOF implies they deliberately targeted the civilians inside the school, which constitutes a war crime under international law.
While PCHR is most willing to list the names of the Deeb family - which did appear (as far as I know) to have been a tragic accident - notice that they simply say that 27 were killed at the school, without listing names, and that the shells hit the school (which we know is not true.)

The entire episode as originally reported was a lie: Israel didn't hit the school, 40+ civilians didn't die (as I mentioned that the time, that is a huge death count for tank shells), and most of the death were in fact terrorists.

The JPost article continues:
Basing its work on the official Palestinian death toll of 1,338, Levi said the CLA had now identified more than 1,200 of the Palestinian fatalities. Its 200-page report lists their names, their official Palestinian Authority identity numbers, the circumstances in which they were killed and, where appropriate, the terrorist group with which they were affiliated.

The CLA said 580 of these 1,200 had been conclusively "incriminated" as members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.

Another 300 of the 1,200 - women, children aged 15 and younger and men over the age of 65 - had been categorized as noncombatants, the CLA said.

Counted among the women, however, were female terrorists, including at least two women who tried to blow themselves up next to forces from the Givati and Paratroopers' Brigades. Also classed as noncombatants were the wives and children of Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas military commander who refused to allow his family to leave his home even after he was warned by Israel that it would be bombed.

The 320 names yet to be classified are all men; the IDF has yet complete its identification work in these cases, but estimates that two-thirds of them were terror operatives.

The CLA gave the Post the names of several fatalities who it said had been classified by the Palestinians as "medics," but who it stated were Hamas fighters, including Anas Naim, the nephew of Hamas Health Minister Bassem Naim, who was killed during clashes with the IDF on January 4 in the Sheikh Ajlin neighborhood of Gaza City.

Following the clashes, the Palestinian press reported that Naim was killed and that he was a medic with the Palestinian Red Crescent. The Gaza CLA, however, produced photographs of Naim posing holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a Kalashnikov assault rifle that had been posted on a Hamas Web site.

...As a consequence of the false information, the IDF was considering setting up a "response team" for future conflicts whose job would be to collect information, analyze it and issue reports as rapidly as possible that refuted Hamas fabrications.
CLA head Col. Moshe Levi acknowledged on Sunday that all this information - on both such specific incidents as the UN school and the overall classifications of the dead - would probably be largely ignored today, since it was being made available so long after the fighting ended. But Levi explained that the IDF was not prepared to issue information unless and until it was confident of its accuracy, no matter how grievous the damage to Israel's image, and the consequent political pressures caused by the delays in contesting inaccurate facts and figures.

Unbelievable. This report is coming out four weeks too late but at least it is coming out. Reporters should have been skeptical from the start about the Gaza "atrocity" stories given the Palestinian Arab penchant for lying.

I hope that the IDF starts showing this report to other journalists.