Among the most significant stories in the past week of Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip was the attack on a United Nations girls’ school in the refugee camp of Jabalya. Though it was clearly marked by the United Nations and the coordinates were given to the IDF when the war first began, Israeli forces fired three mortars on the building, killing 46 and wounding 55 others.
The initial “official story” was that even though they knew the building was being used to house hundreds of displaced civilians, it was deliberately attacked, “according to procedures,” because it was being used as a hiding place for Hamas and because Hamas was firing rockets from the premises. The IDF even claimed to have video footage to back up its claims, though it turned out to be over a year old and from a different school in a different city. So outraged was the Israeli government at the furor it created that it considered formally complaining to the United Nations about letting Hamas use its school.
But that was just the first draft of the official truth, and it didn’t fly. The UN contradicted the story at every turn, and the Israeli government eventually had to concede that its narrative was baseless. The school was not, and had never been a valid military target.
For a few days the government was content to leave the story as-is, and indeed it created enough other stories of civilian massacres to draw some of the attention away. Something about deliberately attacking a girls’ school full of civilians just didn’t sit well with the overall “doing everything we can to prevent innocent loss of life” storyline, so the story has been changed, again.
Now, a preliminary investigation by the military says they were firing at some guys less than a yard outside of the school… and they just plain missed. No muss, no fuss… it was a technical malfunction of one of the US-supplied smart bombs that led to the mortar fire. How this “preliminary investigation” managed to completely contradict almost every single detail of the previous preliminary investigation is never made clear.
But it doesn’t stop there: it also accuses Hamas of deliberately exaggerating the death toll in the suddenly-accidental attack on the school, though most of the casualty figures have come not from Hamas but from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, who ran the school. Israel points to the fact that considerably more powerful tank shells which they inexplicably fired at a building housing their own troops managed to kill only three of them. Lost in this analysis is that the building housed only a few dozen soldiers while the school was filled to capacity with refugees. Moreover, it might behoove the IDF to consider that starving, displaced civilians aren’t quite as durable as the average soldier.