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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Al-Guardian claims to have proof IAF bombed Gaza flour mill

As you may recall, as part of a blood libel that Israel is trying to starve Gazans, the Goldstone Report claimed that Israel had deliberately targeted the al-Badr flour mill in Northern Gaza.
919. On 9 January, at around 3 or 4 a.m., the flour mill was hit by an air strike, possibly by an F-16. The missile struck the floor that housed one of the machines indispensable to the mill’s functioning, completely destroying it. The guard who was on duty at the time called Mr. Hamada to inform him that the building had been hit and was on fire. He was unhurt. In the next 60 to 90 minutes the mill was hit several times by missiles fired from an Apache helicopter. These missiles hit the upper floors of the factory, destroying key machinery. Adjoining buildings, including the grain store, were not hit. The strikes entirely disabled the factory and it has not been back in operation since.

922. The Mission found the Hamada brothers to be credible and reliable witnesses. It has no reason to doubt the veracity of their testimony.
The report that Israel issued over the weekend contradicts Goldstone on the flour mill.
(3) El-Bader flour mill

163. With respect to the allegation of deliberate targeting of the el-Bader flour mill, the IDF conducted a command investigation, which gathered evidence from numerous sources, including relevant commanders and officers and ground and aerial forces. In addition, the investigator received information from the Israeli CLA, which was in direct contact with the owner of el-Bader flour mill, Mr. Rashad Hamada. The command investigation included several findings, which are delineated below.

164. From the outset of the Gaza Operation, the immediate area in which the flour mill was located was used by enemy armed forces as a defensive zone, due to its proximity to Hamas’s stronghold in the Shati refugee camp. Hamas had fortified this area with tunnels and booby-trapped houses, and deployed its forces to attack IDF troops operating there.

For example, 200 meters south of the flour mill an IDF squad was ambushed by five Hamas operatives in a booby-trapped house; 500 meters east of the flour mill another squad engaged enemy forces in a house that was also used for weapons storage; and adjacent to the flour mill, two booby-trapped houses exploded.

165. The IDF ground operation in this area began on 9 January 2009, during night time. Before the ground operation, the IDF issued early warnings to the residents of the area, included recorded telephone calls, urging them to evacuate. Such telephone calls were made to the flour mill as well.

166. While preparing for the operation, the commanders identified the flour mill as a “strategic high point” in the area, due to its height and clear line of sight. Nevertheless, in the planning stage, it was decided not to pre-emptively attack the flour mill, in order to prevent damage to civilian infrastructure as much as possible.

167. In the course of the operation, IDF troops came under intense fire from different Hamas positions in the vicinity of the flour mill. The IDF forces fired back towards the sources of fire and threatening locations. As the IDF returned fire, the upper floor of the flour mill was hit by tank shells. A phone call warning was not made to the flour mill immediately before the strike, as the mill was not a pre-planned target.

168. Several hours after the incident, and following a report about fire in the flour mill, the IDF coordinated the arrival of several fire engines to fight the fire.

169. The Military Advocate General reviewed the findings and the records of the command investigation and other materials. In addition, the Military Advocate General reviewed the information included in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report, as well as the transcript of the public testimony of Mr. Hamada to the Fact-Finding Mission.

170. Taking into account all available information, the Military Advocate General determined that the flour mill was struck by tank shells during combat. The Military Advocate General did not find any evidence to support the assertion that the mill was attacked from the air using precise munitions, as alleged in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report. The Military Advocate General determined that the allegation was not supported in the Report itself, nor in the testimony to the Fact-Finding Mission by Rashad Hamada, who had left the area prior to the incident in response to the IDF’s early warnings.

Photographs of the mill following the incident do not show structural damage consistent with an air attack.

171. The Military Advocate General found that, in the specific circumstances of combat, and given its location, the flour mill was a legitimate military target in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict. The purpose of the attack was to neutralize immediate threats to IDF forces.

172. The Military Advocate General did not accept the allegation in the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report that the purpose of the strike was to deprive the civilian population of Gaza of food. In this regard, he noted the fact that shortly after the incident, the IDF allowed Palestinian fire trucks to reach the area and extinguish the flames, as well as the extensive amount of food and flour that entered Gaza through Israel during the Gaza Operation.

173. Although the Military Advocate General could not conclusively determine that the flour mill was in fact used by Hamas’s military operatives, there was some evidence of such use. The Military Advocate General noted that Mr. Hamada testified before the Fact-Finding Mission that after the operation he found empty bullets on the roof of the flour mill. This could not have been the result of IDF fire, since – as was evident from the findings of the command investigation – the IDF forces which occupied the mill’s compound three days after the incident did not occupy the roof of the mill, where they would have been exposed to enemy fire.

174. Accordingly, the Military Advocate General found no reason to order a criminal investigation regarding the case.
London's Guardian newspaper is claiming that it has photographs of the 'front half' of a bomb that was dropped on the flour mill. It did not publish the photographs (I'll talk about the one at the top of this post below - patience everyone).
The UN mine action team, which handles ordnance disposal in Gaza, has told the Guardian that the remains of a 500-pound Mk82 aircraft-dropped bomb were found in the ruins of the mill last January. Photographs of the front half of the bomb have been obtained by the Guardian.


But the Guardian visited the mill days after the war last year and on the first floor of the building saw what appeared to be the remains of an aircraft-dropped bomb in the burnt-out milling machinery.

The UN mine action team said it identified an aircraft-dropped bomb at the mill on 25 January last year and removed it on 11 February. "Item located was the front half of a Mk82 aircraft bomb with 273M fuse," according to the team. "The remains of the bomb were found on an upper floor in a narrow walkway between burnt-out machinery and an outside wall." The bomb was made safe by a technical field manager and removed.

The team also provided two photographs of what it said were the bomb remains, marked with the date and time it was identified: "25 Jan, 14:38". The team did not do a damage assessment of the building to see what other ordnance hit because that was not its task.
The picture at the top of this post came from a BBC report in June 2009. The caption says that it is the top two floors of the al-Badr flour mill. Here's a larger version of the picture:

I am not a military expert, but the damage would seem to be more consistent with a hit from a helicopter or a tank shell than from an F-16 as Goldstone claims above. If the building had been hit by an F-16, I would think that the roof would be gone. While Goldstone also refers to helicopters, note that the Guardian report, which challenges the Israeli account, refers to a 500-pound bomb. Helicopters don't carry 500-pound bombs. A 500-pound bomb would not have left the roof intact (more evidence that the roof was intact follows below).

Elder of Ziyon publishes a satellite photograph of the mill, which was taken by UNITAR - the United Nations Institute for Training and Research - a week after the damage allegedly occurred on January 9. Here's that photograph (Hat Tip: CAMERA Snapshots). Note that in the satellite image, the roof is still intact.

Elder quotes UNITAR's version of what happened, which is much different than Goldstone's.
The Al-Badr Flour Factory of Sudaniyya appears in the satellite imagery to be composed of multiple building sites situated along the north side of El-Bahar Street. Based on the detailed assessment from the imagery, the only visible damages detected to the factory complex are to the southernmost building which was severely damaged along the southeastern side. The damages appear to have occurred between 16 and 18 January 2009. Within the immediate 500m vicinity of the factory complex there are a total of 43 detected damage sites, including 33 destroyed or severely damaged buildings. The majority of this identified damages occurred between 10 and 18 January 2009. There are clear indications in the imagery of extensive IDF tank movement and related damage to both buildings and vegetation cover in this area during the last three days of the conflict. It is probable, given
the damage signatures, that the majority of damage in this area was caused by intense IDF ground fire. It is important to note that because of the angle of satellite imagery acquisition, it is possible that severe damage to the north and eastern side of the flour factory buildings has not been detected.
Note that the BBC report in June was consistent with UNITAR as to the date, but with Goldstone as to how the flour mill was damaged.
Manager Mahmoud Hamada says it was hit from both sides by F16s and helicopters on 16 January, following telephone warnings that the building would be targeted, but he insists there were no Hamas fighters in the area.
Harris Ad-Hoc has some serious questions regarding Goldstone's account of what happened at the flour mill.
First of all Mr. Hamada is obviously a hearsay witness with regard to the actual events at the flour mill. The only witness was »the guard«, i.e. the only person present at that compound during the incident since the mill owner and the report explicitly speak of the guard as a singular. Obviously the guard is by far the most important witness regarding the incidents at the site. He in fact was the only witness. But the report does not give any hint that this witness has been heard directly. One has to assume that he was not heard at all. Obviously the mission members considered him to be not that important and therefore the events that actually had happened at that site not that important.

But the mission considers Mr. Hamada to be credible and regard his testimony as corroborated. According to these two persons the building was hit by an air strike, »possibly by a F 16«. One wonders how a single person in the middle of the night could possibly determine that some explosion on the area had been the impact of an air strike. But note how careful the mission members put it: »possibly by a F 16«. That is reasonable since neither they nor the guard would have been able to determine with certainty the origin of some air strike: Helicopter, drone, fixed wing etc.

According to the report the hitting was very precise. In fact it is claimed here that the first missile was aimed at a particular floor housing the indispensable machinery.

Then the building was hit several times and for 60 – 90 minutes »by missiles fired from an Apache helicopter«. In contrast they must be very sure about this: It was one single Apache helicopter. And missiles were fired by this helicopter. How can they be so sure, one wonders? They weren´t there. Mr. Hamada wasn´t there. Apaches can fire their missiles from several kilometers away. Usually no one sees them coming. But that single guard person in the middle of the night was able to determine the type of aircraft and the number of aircrafts involved precisely? That is strictly impossible.

What about the precision of the alleged attack? After the first »missile« had hit, the building was hit several times for more than one hour. That is not a surgical targeting of specific machines on specific floors. That is a barrage. One wonders why anyone would occupy valuable military resources like one or more helicopters for such a barrage if a single large free fall bomb could have reached the allegedly desired outcome of the disablement of that mill in seconds.
And of course we know that the flour mill is damaged but still standing.

Writing in October, Harris doesn't get everything right (he says that the IDF used the mill's roof, which the IDF report issued on Friday denies), but he does come up with this quote from Hamada's testimony before the Goldstone Commission:
On the dawn of the tenth of January, we received a call from the guard telling us that the factory was targeted by air with a missile and that it had caught fire. After 15 minutes, he called us again and told us that there are tanks approaching the area and that the factory was targeted with tank fire. We immediately informed the ICRC and the Civil Defense in order to put out the fire in the mill. At 11:00 a.m., we were told by the Civil Defense that the fire had been put out and that the guard had been evacuated from the surface area of the factory.
Was the report of the building being targeted by air a mistake all along? Was it only targeted by tank fire? It sure sounds like it.

In conclusion, the IDF's account of what happened at the al-Badr flour mill is at least as credible as the Goldstone Report account. The claim that the IDF dropped a 500-pound bomb on the flour mill sounds awfully suspicious, and we wait for the Guardian to show us the evidence.

Finally, here's a picture of Mr. Hamada with his milling equipment (also from the BBC). Take a look and tell me: Does this machine look like it was in a building that was hit by a 500-pound bomb?

I don't think so either.


At 4:08 PM, Blogger nomatter said...

The only method which dispels libels is a willingness within the human spirit to do so.

Until that moment all the proof in the world amounts to nothing!! To those who promote these libels and those who believe them, nothing else matters. Not even the word of G-d.

Look, it is 2012 and all the libels against us are alive and strong. Israel is judged by those very libels.

They flourish like seedlings after a spring rain.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Neshama said...

There are more lies flying around out there than the emes; Israel and more of us should do something about it miyad!


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