A recent series of reports by Yolande Knell concerning the presence of Islamic State in Gaza, (a filmed report, a web article and an extended audio report on BBC World Service Newshour) made me curious.
BBC Watch deconstructed one of them a few days ago. “BBC News gets round to mentioning some of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip” Yolande’s report seems to pose various questions:
- Is Hamas too weak to restrain I.S. from a) attacking Israel and b) attacking Hamas?
- Is I.S. a new phenomenon in Gaza?
- Can Israel really hold Hamas responsible for all acts of aggression that emanate from Gaza, no matter who initiated them?
- Could I.S. ‘shatter’ a ‘fragile’ ceasefire between Hamas and Israel?
BBC Watch says:
- The ceasefire is not actually in place. It has already been ‘shattered’ it’s just that the BBC hasn’t reported the recent rocket-fire from Hamas.
- Yolande Knell has upped her evaluation of Hamas ‘on the ideological scale’ - from ‘conservative’ to ‘ultra conservative.’ (Knell also compares Hamas with what she calls the ‘more moderate’ Muslim Brotherhood)
- Salafists have had a presence in Gaza for several years.
- Hamas agreed to a ceasefire deal that stipulated: “All Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel” and Knell herself has clearly stated that Hamas is in control in Gaza.“So far, Hamas, which has its ideological roots in the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood, has been largely able to contain them.”
In the filmed report and the audio version on BBC World service Newshour, we hear Yolande’s emotive touches more clearly.
I’m often struck by a particular pronunciation that seems rife in BBC presenters of a certain age, which I have a theory about. I think it stems from watching too much ‘Neighbours‘ on the TV when they were at an impressionable age. It’s the Australian way of leaving off the final ‘r‘ in words like ‘here’, which comes out “hee” . If you listen carefully you’ll see Yolande isn’t alone. Jon Donnison does it too, and he did so before he was sent down under. Yolande has also gone native when she uses words like Ram-ul-lah and ‘Moham-mud’. Quaint, really. I digress.
After Yolande’s report in the Newshour programme, the presenter James Menendez adopted a somewhat adversarial tone for his next interview with the IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
Menendez repeated the questions posed by Knell.
Is I.S. gaining a foothold in the Palestinian territory of Gaza? Are rockets fired at Israel jeopardizing peace? How worried is Israel?
Menendez suggested that a weaker Hamas lets a hardline group flourish. Is it fair to expect Hamas to control I.S.? Lt. Col. Lerner said Hamas can prevent attacks and we expect them to do so now.
The next speaker was Nathan Thrall.
Menendez’s tone lightened, so I assumed that Thrall is a bit of a lefty whose sympathies tend to lean towards the Palestinian agenda. A few hasty Google searches seem to confirm that, but I’m open to offers. Thrall says Israel has a fair assessment of I.S.’s threat in Gaza, and Hamas has been fighting them for a number of years. He says Israel wants to keep Hamas weak, so it can’t police the radicals so Israel can retaliate against both.
A weaker Hamas lets a hardline group flourish, says Menendez again.
This brings me to something else, which is the real reason I started this post.
My comments on #IslamicState in #Hamas' #Gaza @bbcnewshour @YolandeKnell & @NathanThrall http://t.co/RzhRXXTrU1— Peter Lerner (@LTCPeterLerner) June 12, 2015
Following various links from Twitter I saw that Lt.Col. Peter Lerner has posted on Facebook an account of the IDF’s findings from the inquiry into the tragic deaths of the four young boys who were hit by an Israeli strike on Gaza beach.
Now, there’s always going to be a big problem with self policing, whoever does it. Especially the police, and of course the BBC. But with Israel, we know that no outside body is ready willing or able to investigate, evaluate or otherwise sound off about contentious Israel-related issues in a truly impartial manner.
What we do know is that Israel is at least as scrupulous as possible in the manner in which it goes about its investigations, and doesn’t rely on hearsay or evidence compromised by threats of intimidation. Nevertheless in the current climate, when Israel carries out an enquiry into an incident like this everyone knows it will be met with huge outcries of cynicism and opprobrium. And so it was.
Several things stand out from Peter Lerner’s article.
“I believe it is one of the most covered incidents that was reported on by the media, it was the incident of an air force strike on Gaza beach that resulted in the tragic death of four boys, Ahed Atef Bakr, Zakariya Ahed Bakr, Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakr.”
“... the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas's Naval Police and Naval Force (including naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants. The compound in question spans the length of the breakwater of the Gaza City seashore, closed off by a fence and clearly separated from the beach serving the civilian population. It further found in the course of the investigation (including from the affidavits provided by Palestinian witnesses), that the compound was known to the residents of the Gaza Strip as a compound which was used exclusively by Hamas's Naval Police.”
“On 16 July, aerial surveillance identified a number of figures entering the compound at a running pace. These figures entered a shed adjoining the container which had been attacked the day prior. Against the backdrop of the aforementioned intelligence assessment, these were believed to be militants from Hamas's Naval Forces, who had arrived at the compound in order to prepare to execute the aforementioned military activity against the IDF. It should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident, as children.”
Of course none of that could ever satisfy Israel’s detractors. “Israel exonerates itself” goes the headline. Well, what a surprise.
“Although the attack was witnessed by a Guardian reporter, no attempt was made by the Israeli military investigators to seek a statement.” says the Guardian, disputing Israel’s findings. (But the same article states that they attended in the immediate aftermath - so did they actually witness the attack?)
“The Israeli claims appear at odds in several details with what journalists were able to see at the time.The breakwater is both easily accessible from a side lane and also is located on one of the busiest parts of the public beach in Gaza port and accessible not only to the fishermen who use it, but local Palestinians who come to sunbathe and swim within feet of it.The container described in the Israeli finding also appeared to contain no military equipment.”
“What is not clear from the Israeli report is why Israeli targeters had failed to identify that children had been playing on the beach prior to the attack.”
See the Facebook piece in full over the page:
This is a long read due to its importance. Please share.
Today the Military Advocate General announced his decision on one of the most tragic cases of last year’s conflict with Gaza. I believe it is one of the most covered incidents that was reported on by the media, it was the incident of an air force strike on Gaza beach that resulted in the tragic death of four boys, Ahed Atef Bakr, Zakariya Ahed Bakr, Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakr.
The military police carried out an extensive criminal investigation. During the investigation testimonies were collected from a large number of IDF soldiers and officers who were involved in the planning and execution of the attack. Additionally, an extensive number of documents relating to the attack were reviewed, along with video footage documenting the attack in real time, as well as media images and video footage which documented parts of the incident. Efforts were made to collect the testimonies of Gaza Strip residents who were, allegedly, witnesses to the incident. In this context, the collection of testimony from three witnesses was coordinated. Regretfully, despite the prior coordination, the witnesses eventually declined to meet the investigators, and instead provided affidavits in regard to the incident.
From the factual findings collected by the investigators, it revealed that the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas's Naval Police and Naval Force (including naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants. The compound in question spans the length of the breakwater of the Gaza City seashore, closed off by a fence and clearly separated from the beach serving the civilian population. It further found in the course of the investigation (including from the affidavits provided by Palestinian witnesses), that the compound was known to the residents of the Gaza Strip as a compound which was used exclusively by Hamas's Naval Police.
The IDF carried out a number of attacks on the compound in the days prior to the incident. In the course of one such attack, which took place on the day prior to the incident (15 July 2014), a container located inside the compound, which was used to store military supplies, was attacked.
Shortly before the incident, an intelligence assessment was established which indicated that operatives from Hamas's Naval Forces would gather in the military compound in order to prepare for military activity against the IDF. On 16 July, aerial surveillance identified a number of figures entering the compound at a running pace. These figures entered a shed adjoining the container which had been attacked the day prior. Against the backdrop of the aforementioned intelligence assessment, these were believed to be militants from Hamas's Naval Forces, who had arrived at the compound in order to prepare to execute the aforementioned military activity against the IDF. It should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident, as children.
In light of the above, it was decided to conduct an aerial attack against the figures which had been identified, after all the necessary authorizations for an attack had been obtained, and after a civilian presence in the area had been ruled out. When one of the identified figures entered into the remains of the container which had been attacked on the day prior to the incident, one missile was fired from the air towards the container and the adjoining shed. As a result of this attack, it appeared that one of the figures identified was hit. Following this attack, the rest of the figures began to run in the direction of the compound's exit. Shortly before their exit from the compound, an additional missile was fired from the air towards them, which hit the figures in question after they had exited the compound.
Tragically, in the wake of the incident it became clear that the outcome of the attack was the death of four children, who had entered the military compound for reasons that remain unclear. It further arose from the investigation that, under the circumstances in question, it would not have been possible for the operational entities involved to have identified these figures, via aerial surveillance, as children.
After reviewing the investigation's findings, the Military Advocate General found that the attack process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements.
The decision to attack was taken by the competent authorities, and the attack was aimed at figures who were understood to be militants from Hamas's Naval Forces, who had gathered in order to prepare to carry out military activities against the IDF. At the time that the decision was made, the attack was not, according to the assessment of the operational entities, expected to result in any collateral damage to civilians or to civilian property. Moreover, the attack was carried out while undertaking several precautionary measures, which aimed to prevent any harm to civilians. Such measures included, inter alia, the choice of a munition which was not expected to cause any harm to civilians, and the deployment of real time visual surveillance. The Military Advocate General found that the professional discretion exercised by all the commanders involved in the incident had not been unreasonable under the circumstances. However, it became clear after the fact that the identification of the figures as militants from Hamas's Naval Forces, was in error. Nonetheless, the tragic outcome of the incident does not affect the legality of the attack ex post facto.
Accordingly, the Military Advocate General ordered that the investigation file be closed without any further legal proceedings – criminal or disciplinary – to be taken against those involved in the incident. Nonetheless, inter alia as a result of this incident, the IDF has been working to improve a number of its operational capabilities, including technological capabilities, in order to minimize the risk of the recurrence of tragic incidents of this kind.