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Bad intelligence information and worst choice of 1-ton missile caused the unfortunate death of Palestinian civilians
Ha'aretz (www.haaretzdaily.com) has a good article criticizing not only the intelligence mistake but also the choice of the 1-ton missile that caused the unfortunate death of 12 Palestinian civilians.
How did the assassination of the leading Palestinian terrorist in the territories, the man who practically single-handedly created the military wing of the Hamas, turn into the mass murder of civilians, perhaps the worst by Israel since the outbreak of the hostilities? The discussion of Israel's failure has to be divided into two sections. On the one hand, the intelligence picture, and on the other, the choice of means used to kill him and the decision to go ahead despite the venue - the heart of a densely packed residential neighborhood and the likely possibility that innocents would be harmed. [...]
I copy the full article below.
Analysis / From a `pinpoint' operation to massive casualties
Salah Shehadeh's assassination, accompanied by the deaths of at least 15 civilians, has already yielded one result - the IDF will be forced to remain in the West Bank cities for a long time: at least until the end of summer, if not longer. If, in recent days, there had been a glimmer of hope that it would be able to leave, now the intelligence predictions will become self-fulfilling. A tidal wave of rage swept through Gaza yesterday, as the images from the funerals of the victims and close-ups of the babies' bodies were shown over and over on TV screens throughout the Arab world. The Palestinians will want to avenge Shehadeh and perhaps even more so, the dead children. And since Gaza is surrounded by a fence, most of the terror will come from the West Bank groups. As a result, the IDF will have to remain in the West Bank to prevent attacks in Israeli cities.
How did the assassination of the leading Palestinian terrorist in the territories, the man who practically single-handedly created the military wing of the Hamas, turn into the mass murder of civilians, perhaps the worst by Israel since the outbreak of the hostilities? The discussion of Israel's failure has to be divided into two sections. On the one hand, the intelligence picture, and on the other, the choice of means used to kill him and the decision to go ahead despite the venue - the heart of a densely packed residential neighborhood and the likely possibility that innocents would be harmed.
Both the prime minister and defense minister yesterday preferred to point the finger (with hints, of course, only hints) at the intelligence side of the failure, in effect at the Shin Bet, which provided most of the intelligence for the operation. After all, Israeli spokesmen said over and over again yesterday, if we had known there were civilians there, we would not have struck. You can't suspect us of maliciously intending to kill women and children.
True, the IDF canceled the operation several times (the defense minister says eight times) for fear of harming innocents. But blaming intelligence is convenient for the decision makers, and the intelligence failure is only part of the picture.
Military Intelligence said yesterday afternoon that only four of the 15 people killed (and more than 100 wounded) were actually in the house: Shehadeh, his wife, daughter and a Shehadeh aide from the Hamas. All the rest of the casualties were residents of surrounding buildings. Didn't anyone surmise that at midnight, children and their parents would be fast sleep in those buildings?
When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres made the decision in principle to go after Shehadeh, they knew that his neighborhood was in the heart of a crowded neighborhood. That should have required a detailed examination of the operation and the question why a one-ton bomb was chosen as the munition (and not, as the IDF officers mistakenly told the foreign press yesterday, an anti-tank missile).
In deliberations before the operation, both in the army and at the political level, alternatives were considered, but with the strong backing of the Shin Bet, the IDF choice of a heavy bomb was selected. A senior military sources said last night that nobody expected the grave results of the bombing. On the other hand, he added, in nearly the same breath, "everyone knows that you can't destroy a two-story house with a missile from an Apache helicopter."
The truth is Israel has been playing with fire for quite some time. It seems something very basic has gone wrong in the decision makers' judgment. In light of the horrifying terror attacks on Israeli citizens and the urgent need to prevent further attacks, a kind of apathetic indifference to the possibility of Palestinian casualties has set in. The decision to drop a heavy bomb into a residential neighborhood was the natural consequence of previous moves. This time, it simply turned out much worse.
The IDF has attacked from the air dozens of times inside Palestinian cities. At least twice (in May 2001, in response to the attack on the Netanya mall), F-16s were used to assassinate wanted men - and at the same time 11 Palestinian prison guards were killed, even though they were not targets.
And previous bombings were less accurate than what the official statements would have one believe. More than once, women and children became casualties as Israel went after wanted men. It happened in Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus. But despite that "collateral damage," the air force continued pressing to send more fighter planes into action. That was the main air force lesson learned from Operation Defensive Shield.
Israel started mentioning Afghanistan - with hints, not explicitly - into its responses to the massive international criticism. There's no doubt, in Israel at least, that Israel is much more careful than the Americans when it comes to using force in civilian areas. The New York Times reports on erroneous American air raids in Afghanistan were mentioned in response to some criticism.
But it is doubtful that Israeli explanations that "the Palestinians deliberately hurt civilians and we only do it by mistake" will make much of an impression the world, which only last week heard Israel was planning to expel relatives of terrorists from the West Bank to Gaza.
And another aspect of the assassination that needs some explanation is the timing. The declarations by Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, whom Shehadeh was considered second to and a possible heir, that he would consider a cease-fire if Israeli withdrew from the territories, may have been accompanied by far too many conditions to make it possible. But more important was the internal Palestinian debate over the efficacy of the suicide bombings. That debate has now been shunted to the sidelines in favor of Palestinian threats to settle accounts against a senior Israeli official, preferably including their children.
If there had been a sliver of hope, and it's debatable if there was, it apparently is gone once again, as happened in January when a hasty decision to assassinate Ra'ad Carmi, the Fatah man from Tul Karm, put an end to more than a week of quiet.
Yesterday, at the briefing for the foreign press, a bespectacled colonel sat behind the officers who answered the press's questions. He was Daniel Reizner, the JAG assistant for international law. The IDF doesn't think that they'll have to answer for this week's bombing at the international crimes court in The Hague. But a few more similar operations and that danger may be a lot closer than it appears right now.
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There they go again! Israel goes after the guy that has murdered how many Jews? And there are civilian deaths because this guy nestled himself among civilians, counting on an Israeli moral position not to hit civilians, and lo, it came to pass some 15 people died. Now: add up the Israeli deaths he is respnsible for. And the EU and UN? quick to condemn but silent about Arab murders.
It is regretaable and the Jews have once again shown how anguished they are when something happens that is bad; where is a similar show of regret shown when Jews die? No. Instead, shooting automatics in the air to celebrate Israeli deaths.
Posted by: fred lapides at July 24, 2002 04:55 AM
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