Women and Children Die: No Questions Asked

Two mothers, an infant and two teenagers died under a blast of Israeli bombs in Gaza yesterday, but it was just a mistake, The New York Times tells us: The attacks were intended to eliminate the head of the Hamas military wing, and it looks like he got away.

In a page 6 story by Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram, we learn a great deal about the target of the bombs, Muhammed Deif, but mention of the dead mothers and sons seems almost incidental. The fact that they died does not appear until the fourth paragraph of the article. After another four paragraphs we learn that at least 19 Palestinians died Wednesday when Israel carried out 70 airstrikes on the densely crowded strip.

The story also states that “Eight years ago as Mr. Deif met with other top Hamas military officials on the ground floor of a three-story home in Sheikh Radwan, the Israeli Air Force struck at 3 a.m. Nine members of a family on the upper floors of the house were killed, but Mr. Deif and his comrades escaped.”

And then we read, farther into the story, that at least 14 people died in 2002 when Israel assassinated Deif’s predecessor, Salah Shehadeh, during a missile strike on his home.

Here we have a reported 28 persons killed in their homes during attempts to assassinate two Hamas leaders. The victims include women and children and family members who happened to be on the upper floor when Israel targeted men on the ground floor. You would think this would raise concerns about the cost to innocent civilians, but this appears to be a non-issue with the Times.

The story quotes not a single government official, human rights worker or international observer who has something to say about the practice of bombing homes to kill Hamas leaders. There are certainly many out there who would like to comment, but it seems that Times reporters are not interested in raising the subject.

It is only at the close of the article that we get the question that should have been posed from the start. It comes from Deif’s father-in-law, who lost his daughter and grandson in the attack: “If Israel wants to kill a fighter, why would it kill women and children beside him? Let them kill him alone.”

But this comes from a grieved father and a supposed Hamas supporter. The Times may have managed to give mention at last to the big question here, but it does so in a way that readers can write off as coming from a biased source.

At the same time that the Times has failed to question Israeli policies in Gaza, the paper has also tried to discredit statistics that show the vast majority of deaths in Gaza this past month have been civilian ( See “Civilian or Not? New Fight in Tallying the Dead,” in print on Aug. 6.), but its own reporting belies that effort. What the Times tells us here fully supports the reports of a high civilian tally.

Here we have more than a dozen innocents dying in the pursuit of single Hamas official, and the Times reports it all, unaware of its own dissonance and apparently unconcerned.

Barbara Erickson

6 thoughts on “Women and Children Die: No Questions Asked

  1. “If Israel wants to kill a fighter, why would it kill women and children beside him?” In a word, tactics.

    Israeli forces have always targeted (yes, targeted) friends and family members of resistance fighters in both Palestine and Lebanon. . . to break down their will to resist. Israelis know that the fighters are willing to risk their own lives, but that it is harder to jeopardize the lives of their loved ones. Think of the common plot in action films: kidnap and/or threaten the loved one in order to intimidate the target into the desired action. Clever, cold-hearted, the essence of terrorism (before the word lost its meaning as a casual cliche).


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