Al-Durah Redux? Facts emerge contradicting Guardian presumption of IDF guilt in Palestinian deaths

The deaths of two Palestinian rioters in Betunia in the West Bank on May 15 has generated considerable media attention, in large measure because the incidents were apparently caught on video.

One heavily edited security camera video distributed by Defence for Children International/Palestine – a radical NGO which supports Muslim Brotherhood-organised ‘Freedom flotillas’ and continues to promote the ‘Jenin massacre’ libel – purports to show the two Palestinians allegedly being shot (within one hour and 15 minutes of one another) through the chest with real bullets fired by Israelis.

Here’s the video:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaibEqx2m_k]

A DCI-Palestine spokesperson said the videos “clearly show two kids being hit directly with something other than a rubber bullet”, a narrative repeated by pro-Palestinian activists, and many in the mainstream media.

Naturally, the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont – in two reports he’s filed since the incident – seems to have no doubt whatsoever that Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at the two Palestinians, killing them both, and has indeed all but mocked Israeli denials.

Both reports by Beaumont (Video footage indicates killed Palestinian youths posed no threat‘, May 20, and ‘Footage of Palestinian boys being shot is genuine, says Israeli rights group‘, May 20) primarily focus on the narrow question raised by some (including the IDF and some critical commentators) regarding whether the original CCT footage was manipulated to distort what really happened in Betunia.  

However, he significantly downplays what has emerged as the central element of the story: the dearth of any evidence whatsoever indicating that Israeli soldiers used live fire (real bullets) as opposed to rubber bullets, as the latter could all but certainly could not have killed Palestinians in a manner described by Palestinian sources.  

Beaumont’s May 20th report does note that “a preliminary investigation determined that live fire was not used by security forces”, but argues that “the composite picture presented by the evidence points to the conclusion that the two teenagers were” indeed shot with “live fire”.  His May 22nd report is even more tendentious, leading off by citing a statement by B’tselem “contradicting Israeli army claims that the footage is likely to have been forged”, and mocking the Israeli response.

Additionally, though he cites the new CNN video purporting to corroborate Palestinian accounts, he simply ignores two important take-aways from the clip: that, based on a careful review of the video, the Israelis were certainly firing non-lethal rubber bullets at the Palestinians, and that the bullet produced by the father of one of the victims did not at all look like it could have been the bullet which passed through his son’s body.

Before viewing the CNN video, here are the two relevant stills:

1. Was the “bullet” recovered?

First, at 3:22 of the clip, here’s the bullet produced by the victim’s father which he claimed killed his son:

CNN Betunia Bullet

However, as Vic Rosenthal noted after consulting a firearms expert:

The bullet that the father of the victim said had been removed from the backpack was a 5.56 mm bullet such as is used by the IDF. But it was only slightly deformed. If it had passed through a person’s chest and then was stopped by books in a backpack, it would have been completely crushed. “That bullet looks like it was fired into sand,” the expert said.

Additionally, as CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile noted:

Appearing [yesterday] on Israel’s Channel Two, [Israeli weapons expert] Yosef Yekutiel stated that if the bullet actually went through the victim’s body the way Palestinian doctors say it did, it would look entirely differently from the one displayed by the boy’s father.

2. Did Israelis use live-fire or non-lethal rubber bullets on rioters?

Here’s a still (at 1:53 of the video) of the Israelis who were allegedly firing at one of the Palestinians who was killed:

rubber bullet

Firearms experts cited by Vic Rosenthal, experts consulted by Israeli Channel 2 and others have noted that the weapon used by soldier in the clip clearly appears to have the rubber bullet extension by virtue of the thickening in the barrel (again suggesting that they couldn’t have used live fire). Additionally, the “manner in which the victims fell, the absence of blood at the scene, and the lack of entry or exit wounds”, experts have noted, are all inconsistent with being shot with live ammunition.

Here’s the CNN video in question.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROOQ6FdXr5s]
Here’s the video (edited and uploaded by Elder of Ziyon with translation assistance from CiF Watch) of the Israeli TV (Channel  2) analysis referenced by Dexter Van Zile and Vic Rosenthal:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgPEhjT5u7k]
 
One big question remains that those accepting the Guardian/ MSM narrative of the shooting must answer:
How can they assert that live fire was used by Israeli soldiers when NO evidence has emerged to buttress this claim, and when all the evidence to date suggests that only rubber bullets were used – non-lethal fire which couldn’t have caused the damage claimed?
Further, if no live fire was used by Israeli forces, the narrative advanced by Palestinians and their media supporters is almost fatally undermined.
Whilst it’s too soon to say if this is an instance of lethal journalism in the spirit of Al Durah‘, the failure of journalists like Beaumont to ask important questions about the shooting suggests that, once again, the bulk of the work in critically examining Palestinian claims will fall on media watchdog groups, citizen journalists and analysts not compromised by the pack mentality and the immediate presumption of Israeli guilt.

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