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IDF-Embedded Reporter Says It Fired Guided Missile at UNWRA School, Killing 15 Civilians

zino maariv

Zino’s report confirming the IDF fired a guided missile at an UNWRA school which killed civilians.

An Israeli reporter for Maariv, Aviram Zino, has been embedded with an IDF unit during the current invasion.  Noam R writes in his Israeli political blog about Zino’s fawning enthusiastic response to being given the chance of a lifetime to be a reporter in the middle of the “action.”  His reporting comes across as cheerleading rather than objective journalism.  But in spite of himself, Zino reveals a damning fact that impeaches the IDF’s credibility regarding its denial of deliberately targeting UN buildings housing Palestinian civilian refugees.

Zino reports that the unit commander, Nadav, ordered the firing of a $100,000 Tamuz (aka Spike) heat-seeking anti-tank missile on a UNWRA school in Beit Hanoun on July 24th:

Nadav tried to clarify what means were available to him.  A survey of the field shows clearly fire coming from an UNWRA school in the center of Gaza.  The order is given and a Tammuz missile is fired at the school.  The commanding general, who arrives later for a press conference, says in response: “This is yet another example of Hamas’ cynical use of civilian structures for the purposes of terror.”

It’s a bit aggravating since the unit tried from the beginning of the Operation to do minimal damage, as best as possible, to the “uninvolved” [military jargon for “civilians”].

15 Palestinian civilians died from this missile and 150 were injured.  As Noam R points out in his blog post, this is the first eyewitness, definitive evidence that the IDF deliberately ordered a lethal guided-weapon (not indiscriminate artillery fire) to be fired at a civilian building in Gaza knowing there were unarmed non-combatants inside who would be killed.

Two things to point out about this report.  Clearly, Zino didn’t see firing from the school.  He trusted the unit commander’s word that such fire had been confirmed.  But by whom and how is not mentioned.  Second, the commander speaking at the press conference only notes the attack by the IDF on the school without explaining how it justified killing civilians.  Zino, in the closing sentence, admits explicitly that the attack was both disproportional and knowingly attacked civilians.  As Sara Lee Whitson says in the paragraph below: that “is a war crime.”

In fact, Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson spoke about Israel’s responsibility to Gaza’s civilian population:

…The…presence of…civilians despite a warning to flee cannot be ignored when attacks are carried out, as Israeli forces have done previously.

“Warning families to flee fighting doesn’t make them fair targets just because they’re unable to do so, and deliberately attacking them is a war crime,” Whitson said.

In other words, you may not attack a civilian target containing unarmed civilians using heavy lethal weapons, even if you believe there are armed fighters engaged in combat operations against you.  The safety of civilians trumps any desire to eliminate the armed threat, if there is one.  This is reinforced by the fact that the IDF never presents any proof of its claims that armed fighters are firing from such structures and didn’t do so in this particular case.

There is yet another instance of serious IDF prevarication.  Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Lerner told AP 900 Palestinian fighters had been killed during the war.  Yet the IDF itself only two days before had put that number at 300.  When asked why it jumped so much, AP characterized his response:

Lerner said the figure of 900 militants killed was an approximation, based on reporting from individual Israeli units, but provided no further detail.

In other words, “900” is nothing more than the old Vietcong “body count” released by the U.S. army to persuade the press it was killing gooks and winning the war.  The truth turned out to be quite different, as it will be in Gaza as well.

Palestinian and UN reports place the number of dead fighters at 20% of the overall total, which is 1,900.  That would mean that 380 militants were killed.  My own Israeli source reports more candid IDF claims that 500 fighters have been killed.  Certainly, the final number will be somewhere between 380-500, but nowhere near Lerner’s prevaricating claim of 900.

My Operation Protective Edge debrief yesterday argued that while both sides had gotten bloody noses, Hamas, simply by remaining standing, had gotten the better of Israel.  Sheera Frenkel interviewed soldiers leaving Gaza and they uniformly told her they believed both that their objectives hadn’t been clear going into Gaza, and now that the Operation had ended, they hadn’t “gotten the job done.”  Meaning, don’t believe the PR-bloviating you’ll hear from Benny Gantz and Bibi Netanyahu saying that Hamas had been dealt a mortal blow, that Israel had achieved all its objectives, etc.  None of that happened.  As Arnold Schwarzenegger says in Terminator: “I’ll be back!”  Of that you can be sure.  War is a never-ending phenomena as far as Israel is concerned.

One final word about the utter futility of Israel’s policy toward Gaza.  International bodies are now organizing a conference to pledge reconstruction aid to Gaza.  This is a ridiculous undertaking.  It is just what the world did the last time Israel attacked Gaza in Operation Cast Lead.  Not to mention that Israel prevented most of the aid from entering Gaza for its intended purpose.  Why should the world bear the responsibility to reconstruct Gaza when it didn’t destroy it?  The onus should be squarely on Israel to do so.  And if it refuses, as it clearly would, then further action must be taken to force it to accept responsibility.  Of course, this would never happen under existing circumstances.  But those circumstances will and must change.

If Israel wants to ravage the Middle East and destroy the territory of its neighbors, then it must pay the price.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Michael August 5, 2014, 11:09 PM

    Let’s assume that this report is genuine, and ask a question based on it. What would you do if you were in the brigade commander’s boots? Your soldiers are under fire, you have dead and wounded man. You identify considerable fire from the Direction (which is the right translation of the above text) of the UNRWA school. What would you do?
    Please don’t answer “talk with Hamas” or “refuse to serve” etc. This will not promote the discussion regarding the possibilities at this specific situation, assuming that it indeed happened.

    • Oui August 5, 2014, 11:24 PM

      Proud to belong …

      Introducing Tamuz, the Missile

      (Jewish Press) – With a range of 15.5 miles, the missile is equipped with an electric optic sensor that transmits the image of its target to its operators inside an armored personnel carrier who then manually drive it towards the target. It is capable of penetrating armored vehicles.

      The missiles are fired from an armored personnel carrier from two launchers, each of which is capable of carrying three missiles. The carrier can carry and additional four missiles inside.

      While the missile has been in use since the 1980′s, it was decided to reveal its existence on Monday. “The missile provides us with the ability to accurately attack targets from a standoff position without needing to physically come into contact with the enemy,” Col. Sharon commander of the Artillery Corps David Sling Formation told reporters.

    • Darcy August 9, 2014, 1:11 PM

      Don’t believe a word these fuckers say. They’re guilty of lying, paying for propaganda and killing multitudes of unarmed civilians. why would you take their word for this? Add to this they declared war on an occupied population and were warned plenty of times in the past of opening fire on UN sanctuaries but still did so. Their record is against them here.

  • Oui August 5, 2014, 11:22 PM

    After years of operational successes, the IDF revealed the “Tammuz” anti-tank missile

    (Ynet News) Aug. 8, 2011 – The advanced weapon was developed and designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., and is currently being used by the Artillery Corps in the Gaza Strip. It was previously used during the Second Lebanon War and in Operation Cast Lead.

    The Tammuz is an electro-optical rocket capable of transmitting photos mid-flight, tracking the target and changing the flight accordingly, all with the help of wireless communication.

    The missile had been fired in the past at dozens of targets and found to be very useful against terror units and armored facilities both during day and night, according to a senior Artillery Corps officer.


    Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has called on the United States and EU to recognize Hamas as “not just a military but also a political force” in an op-ed written for Foreign Policy yesterday. Quite a different opinion from FM Frans Timmermans, vying for the European top foreign policy post to succeed Lady Ashton this fall.

    Posted in my diary – Dutch FM Timmermans An Apologist for Israel’s War on Gaza.

  • Dorothy August 6, 2014, 4:20 AM

    I agree about where the money to repair Gaza should come from, especially if Israel is going to continue to only want a nice lawn.
    Maybe some of it should come from the funds that we and others send to Israel.

    My local Jewish Federation had a campaign “Stop the Sirens”- raising money to help Israel. Jewish organization should have such campaigns to rebuild Gaza. (yeah right).

  • Oui August 6, 2014, 7:24 AM

    Jealous of the fly on the wall …

    “Breakdown of Communications” between PM Netanyahu and Secr. Kerry

    Kerry’s spokesperson, Jen Psaki, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the two men have not spoken since a brief phone call over the situation in Gaza ended because of “communications problems.” [perhaps Unit 8200?]

    If you don’t toe the line of the Likud narrative, you’re uninvited …

  • I said hey August 6, 2014, 8:29 AM

    ‘Tammuz’ is a generic name used by a family of missiles.

    My own lowly-placed source embedded with the IDF by virtue of years of service informs me that the weapon used was a ‘Mini Spike’ (Zaatut in IDF parlance) which costs much less than the purported 100k and has a much smaller warhead, unable to do the damage ascribed to it by RS.

    • Richard Silverstein August 6, 2014, 9:05 AM

      @I said hey: Gee, I have a choice of trusting a published journalist who was an eyewitness to the events he describes or trusting an anonymous source of a known hasbarist– that’s a tough one. But I think I’ll stick with Zino.

      • Frank August 6, 2014, 9:43 AM

        Spike, aka Tammuz, is a fire-and-forget, heat-seeking missile with lock-on before launch and automatic self-guidance.
        Hard to believe that an advanced missile, used to fly around obstacles and destroy mobile tanks, would be so wastefully used on a static target.

        Perhaps the missile had been fired at a moving target such as a motor vehicle.

  • poirefrais August 6, 2014, 10:08 AM

    IDF’s instructions failed to protect civilians, again and again – on the contrary, there is evidence of direct neglect and serious crimes.
    I would like to see more reports on this – firing a missile at the UNWRA school, and all other missile attacks.
    These missiles are precise IDF has instructions to proceed,; civilians don’t matter in their book, they have shown this, again and again.
    Another excuse, another lie.
    The pattern is there, and each time Israel/IDF try to cover it up with more lies.
    Perhaps IDF agree to the temporary ceasefire for same reasons as before, to exploit, buy time, regroup, ‘calm’ world anger at it’s incursions and killing, then strike, once again, and call foul.
    The missiles’ capabilities re clear, IDF, however, clearly wants a free hand using them.
    I have heard reports about ‘indiscriminate’ firing of rockets from Gaza, which seem grossly exaggerated by Israel/Israeli press .. rockets, not shelling.
    Israel/Netanyahu is responsible for INDISCRIMINATE bombing of Gaza, killing and maiming innocents, civilians, men, women and children. This has nothing to do with ‘self defense’. It’s a war against all people of Gaza. Israel does not distinguish, just tries to put it’s spin on everything. Only world/public opinion prevents even more carnage.
    But I heard the reports that other Israeli politicians are blood thirsty, and calling for Netanyahu to go back and do their worst, ‘complete’ the ‘operation’.
    Netanyahu has nothing but scorn for Kerry and Obama. Why don’t they come down on this this mad man, hard, with action, not words. Nothing else will change the dynamic.
    Does Israel control America so much, that our ‘leaders’ cannot act, responsibly and ethically, on behalf of it’s citizens and humanity?
    Thanks Richard.

  • poirefrais August 6, 2014, 10:19 AM

    “Negotiators are meeting in Cairo during the 72-hour Gaza ceasefire, trying to make an agreement for a lasting ceasefire. Palestinians are demanding that a long-term ceasefire permanently end the Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. This is a crucial moment for opponents of the blockade around the world to raise our voices.
    Starting at 12 noon eastern US time (11 AM Central, 9 AM Pacific, 6pm CET), we urge you to participate in our daily 15 minute Twitter storm to push for the Cairo talks to conclude with an agreement to end the blockade of Gaza.”

  • Oui August 6, 2014, 10:29 AM

    Despite the Israeli withdrawal from an intended buffer zone that includes 44 percent of Gaza’s territory, many in Khuzaa can no longer imagine continuing to live in this town on the eastern Gaza border with Israel. Although Israel’s army has pulled back for now, the Gates of Hell they opened here created the conditions for a buffer zone maintained by despair. And this is not the first time.

    “We have documented a series of war crimes in Khuzaa over the years and the result should be criminal prosecution, not residents fleeing in fear,” says Bill Van Esveld, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. The rights group has recorded systematic Israeli attacks on the town since Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza. Van Esvald depicts a bombarded community where residents in 2009 were shot by the army while holding white flags or were attacked with white phosphorous.

    Mr Kerry, in a BBC Hard Talk interview, said the US fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself against militant rocket attacks. “No country can live with that condition and the United States stands squarely behind Israel’s right to defend itself in those circumstances. Period.”

  • poirefrais August 6, 2014, 12:40 PM

    London demonstration next Saturday. It will be huge. Cannot be there, but other protests daily, around the globe.

  • Terry Humphrey August 8, 2014, 8:22 PM

    Why would anyone assume the report was factual—the IDF has every reason to lie.

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