The Strange Tale of Two Fugitives and How They Met Their End

A months-long manhunt for two men suspected of killing three Israeli teenagers has ended with their death, and The New York Times has provided readers with a story about their killing. It is heavy on talk of Hamas, short on details of just how the men died and oddly inconsistent.

In “Israeli Forces Kill 2 Palestinian Suspects in Murders of Jewish Teenagers,” Jodi Rudoren writes that Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha died in a shootout after they were surrounded in Hebron. She quotes Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner who said the men “came out shooting” and one was killed on the spot. The other, in Rudoren’s words, “fell back into the destroyed building, where the troops then tossed grenades.”

There is a peculiar hiatus here. If the building had already been destroyed, the confrontation did not begin with a firefight. Rudoren’s own words thus give credence to other accounts, such as this from Haaretz: “Israeli forces approached the house with an excavator vehicle and fired a rocket at the house, according to Palestinian reports.”

As blogger Richard Silverstein notes, “You fire a rocket into a house to kill those inside. You bring an excavator to bury the victims alive. If there was a firefight as claimed, it was the equivalent of a peashooter against an F-16. This was an execution. The state equivalent of a mob hit.”

He titles his post “Shin Bet Murders Palestinians Who Killed Three Israeli Youth” and states, “A joint team of IDF, Shin Bet [the Israeli security agency] and Border Police cornered the two Palestinian boys and murdered them.” Silverstein, who is fluent in Hebrew and has connections within Israel, also writes, “My Israeli source called it a ‘targeted killing.’ He says the force intended to liquidate them. It hardly mattered whether they fought back or surrendered.”

Rudoren dismisses this kind of talk in one sentence: “Some Palestinians denounced the shootout early Tuesday as an extrajudicial assassination.” Her brief aside provides no names and no details and ignores the charges by Silverstein and others who state outright that the killing was targeted.

The Times also runs a photo with the story. It shows a building devastated by heavy fire, an emptied shell of rubble and dangling rebar. Neither the text of the article nor the caption explains what happened here, but it is obvious that the structure was hit by more than a few grenades.

Other accounts report that Israeli forces damaged not only the building where the men had been hiding but others in the neighborhood as well. Rudoren does not mention this although she quotes a resident who says he came to see “the barbaric action committed by Israel,” omitting the inconvenient fact of a devastated neighborhood and allowing us to believe he spoke from pure spite.

And then there is the subject of Hamas. Rudoren notes that some Hamas leaders “at first denied knowing anything about” the kidnapping. But, she adds, “In recent weeks, though, and again on Tuesday, several Hamas officials embraced the suspects.”

Offering praise is one thing and confirming knowledge of a plot is another, and although she would like to make something more of these statements, Rudoren is forced to add that “no evidence has yet been made public showing that the men acted on Hamas’s direction.”

She is implying that there is more news out there yet to come, and she omits findings that have been publicized, in the Times no less. In a Sept. 4 story Isabel Kershner wrote, “They [Shin Bet] depict the plot as more of a family affair, a local initiative organized and carried out by members of a clan in Hebron, the West Bank city that has often been a flash point of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, and a few additional associates.”

In spite of these tenuous and contradictory claims, Times editors willingly support the Israeli effort to blame Hamas at all costs. They have provided this subhead to the story today: “Pair Are Hailed As Hamas Heroes.”

The full story of the killings in Hebron is missing from the Times. Readers learn only of the official Israeli army version and receive no hint that there is another narrative to consider. And yet, in its rush to provide the “correct” spin to this piece, the paper provides us with clues that all is not right in this tale. Careful readers will take note and look elsewhere for their news.

Barbara Erickson

2 thoughts on “The Strange Tale of Two Fugitives and How They Met Their End

  1. Thank you, Barbara, for adding another piece of this puzzle. Thanks too for referring to the dead Palestinians as suspects. I was disappointed to see other bloggers refer to them as the killers of the settler youth, rather than suspected, alleged or accused of committing the crime. Or perhaps some who believe in the “innocent until proven guilty” as practiced in the U.S. are just proving that Israel’s insistence that Palestinians are guilty without ever been charged. tried or convicted has become so routine it’s not even noticed or commented on.

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  2. Missing from your thorough analysis is the role of the PA – its “security” force – which provided intelligence and exact location of the two Palestinians to the Israelis — as is expected and almost officially acknowledged.

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