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November 18, 2019 2:27 pm

Who Was Really Killed in Israel’s Response to Palestinian Rocket Attacks?

avatar by Tamar Sternthal


Israeli firefighters work to extinguish flames at a factory in Sderot ignited by a rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group over the Gaza border into Israel on Nov. 12, 2019. Photo: Flash90.

In an article last Tuesday, the first day of massive Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket attacks against Israeli communities and Israel’s surgical air strikes against targets belonging to the terror group, including cells preparing to launch rockets, National Public Radio covered up casualties among Islamic Jihad fighters.

Thus, in its November 12 article (“Rockets Rain on Gaza and Israel After Airstrike Kills Militant Leader“), Colin Dwyer misreported the Israeli operation to kill Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata, which had sparked the Palestinian rocket attacks, incorrectly reporting that several bystanders were killed in that attack. In fact, they were killed in subsequent Israeli air strikes targeting Islamic Jihad cells setting up rockets to launch; they were not bystanders.

Dywer wrote:

The prime minister noted that he and Israeli military and intelligence leaders approved the operation 10 days ago and that they waited for a “unique window of opportunity to carry out the action, under optimal conditions with maximum chance of success and minimal chance for hitting anyone uninvolved.”

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Still, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reports that the attack killed not only Abu el-Atta and his wife but also at least three other Palestinians. At least 45 other people in Gaza reportedly were injured, according to Gaza health officials, and at least 19 people in Israel were injured in the retaliation.

While al-Ata’s wife was indeed killed during the airstrike that targeted her husband, there were no additional fatalities. Other Islamic Jihad fighters where killed in subsequent Israeli attacks against Islamic Jihad cells preparing rockets to launch, as described above. As The New York Times reported:
Islamic Jihad said that the commander’s wife, Asmaa Abu al-Ata, was also killed in the 4 a.m. missile strike…
Israel refrained for several hours from additional strikes, saying it wanted to avoid an escalation, though it struck what it said were two Islamic Jihad operatives preparing to launch a rocket around 11 a.m.
Similarly, The Los Angeles Times reported (“Message to Hamas in Israel’s Gaza Strike… ” page A3):
On Tuesday, Israel went after the group, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing that the Israeli air force had killed “arch-terrorist” Bahaa abu Atta, 42, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, in a daybreak surgical strike in which his wife, Asma, also died. Islamic Jihad retaliated with nearly 200 missiles fired into Israel, which struck back with air sorties that left eight people dead in Gaza, authorities there said.

With a caption that cut out critical information, NPR conceals that a specific fatality was an Islamic Jihad member reportedly preparing to launch rockets:

A mother mourns her 25-year-old Palestinian son Tuesday in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said it had carried out an airstrike in the area amid an escalation of violence between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants. Anas Baba/AFP via Getty Images

The photograph in question originated from Agence France Presse, and the original AFP caption contained key information that NPR chose to drop. AFP’s complete, original caption stated:

The mother of Palestinian Zaki Ghanama, 25, mourns over his body at the morgue of a hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2019, following an Israeli strike. Israel said it had carried out an air strike against militants preparing to launch rockets. The incident took place amid an escalation in violence between the two sides that followed an Israeli strike that killed an Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip. (Emphasis added.)

The bolded sentence noting that Israel said it carried out an air strike against fighters preparing to launch rockets does not appear in NPR’s caption.

Moreover, it is confirmed that Ghanama is a member of Islamic Jihad; the terror group released a poster claiming him as their own following his death.

NPR further obscured that Israel specifically targeted Islamic Jihad with the imprecise headline: “Rockets Rain on Gaza and Israel After Airstrike Kills Militant Leader.”

“Rockets rain on Gaza and Israel” suggests an equivalency where none exists. On one side, a Palestinian terror organization was carrying out a war crime by indiscriminately firing on communities, targeting civilians. On the other side, Israel’s military carefully targeted Islamic Jihad terror targets, making every effort to leave civilians, along with Hamas — the larger terror organization which rules the territory — out of the violence.

A version of this article was originally published at CAMERA.

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