“Killing and Retaliation at Gaza-Israel Border Continue Violent Cycle.” So reads the Christmas Day headline on page 10 of the Times. The story by Isabel Kershner begins with a Dec. 24 sniper attack from Gaza that left an Israeli army repairman dead. It goes on to say that Israel responded with attacks by air and land and a toddler died in Gaza “when a shell landed in front of [her] home.”
But why begin with the sniper? There was plenty of action in the 10 days before the deadly shooting. On Dec. 20, according to a UN report, soldiers shot and killed a Gaza man as he was “collecting scrap metal and plastics, and an ambulance attempting to enter the area to evacuate the person injured was delayed by Israeli forces for some 45 minutes.”
The report goes on: “Another eight civilians were injured [from Dec. 10 to 23] in seven similar incidents.” And it adds, “in at least five occasions during this period, the Israeli navy shot at Palestinian fishing boats sailing near the 6 [nautical mile] limit, forcing them ashore.”
In fact, the metal collector was the twelfth Gaza civilian to die from attacks by Israeli forces since a November 2012 ceasefire that ended eight days of sustained assaults on the strip. (See UN reports here and here.) On the other hand, as Kershner states, the army repairman “was the first Israeli fatality in the vicinity of Gaza since the November 2012 fighting.”
If Israel’s action was “retaliation” for one death, would it not make sense to say that the Gaza sniper was “retaliating” also, for 12 killings and dozens of injuries in the same period of time?
Times readers are left without the crucial context of this story, not only the timeline of events but also the fact that Gaza and the West Bank are under military occupation and Israel has held Gaza under a crippling blockade since 2007. The words “siege” (or “blockade”) and “occupation” never appear in the article.
“Unlawful” shooting in death of toddler
Also missing from the Times is a statement by the Israeli human rights monitoring group B’Tselem. The organization investigated the death of the toddler, Hala Abu Sbeikhah, 2 years and eight months old, who was playing outside when an Israeli tank opened fire on her home. The group issued a press release stating that Israeli forces apparently failed to warn the family in advance of the shelling, as is required by law.
The release continues: “B’Tselem does not know the reasoning for the tank’s firing at the Abu Sbeikhah home. Hala’s uncle, who was outside during the firing, said there was no activity by armed Palestinians in the area at the time. The IDF Spokesperson announcement did not state the proposed object of the strike, apart from the laconic description of the attack on the central Gaza Strip as aimed at ‘a core of terrorist activity and terrorist infrastructure’. The IDF announcement also stated that ‘the targets were seen to have been hit precisely,’ yet to the best of B’Tselem’s knowledge, the only casualties in of the military attack were the four members of the Abu Sbeikhah family. The IDF Spokesperson’s announcement did not address the harsh results of the shells fired.”
B’Tselem has demanded an immediate army investigation of the incident, and it has also condemned Israel’s retaliatory closing of Kerem crossing at the Gaza border. The closing amounts to collective punishment, the group states.
Will the Times report any of this? The press release was issued on Dec. 25, and a search online and in print for Dec. 26 shows no mention of B’Tselem’s charges.