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The great Qana missile strike ambulance hoax

December 29, 2006

During the summer war in Lebanon various media outlets ran lead stories on charges that the Israeli Air Force had deliberately targeted two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances transporting wounded civilians near Qana, seriously wounding the occupants. US blogger zombietime led a series of exposes on the blogosphere that alleged the purported attacks had been faked. Australian FM Alexander Downer achieved one of his 15 minutes of fame by lambasting editors for falling for the hoax.

Now humanitarian NGO Human Rights Watch has delivered a 25-page report which attempts to refute those allegations. zombietime has already responded to the attempted refutation.

To my mind, the HRW report strains all credulity. Draw your own conclusions from the links provided, but, in summary, this is what HRW is asking us to believe.

An IAF drone (not an aircraft), which nobody saw, although they did see aircraft, intentionally fired two missiles at the ambulances. So far as is publicly known, the IAF uses drones primarily for surveillance and target identification and illumination, not for weapons delivery: but since it can’t have been a helicopter or aeroplane, it must have been a drone (even if nobody saw one). These missiles were the only munitions used, although the roofs of the ambulances show much more damage than just the missiles’ entry sites.

HRW does not know what kind of munitions were employed, but on the assumption that some must have been, because the witnesses said so, concludes a dense inert metal explosive (DIME) missile was most likely involved. These weapons have a highly localised detonation impact, which somehow accounts for the astonishing lack of damage or scorching within the ambulance cabins. Of course, you’d expect the Israelis to use hi-tech aerial platforms to deliver missiles with the approximate payload of a grenade. You can never tell with those guys.

So, then, the DIME missiles exploded, causing relatively minor casualties, including shrapnel wounds, without substantially damaging the paintwork or carpets. This was despite (a) DIME weapons being sheathed in carbon, not the conventional metal casing, specifically to prevent the usual spray of shrapnel, and (b) their demonstrated ability to vaporise anything within four metres. But they must have exploded, albeit with more limited effect than their manufacturers would have anticipated, because the witnesses said their eardrums were blown out by the detonations.

At the same time, despite having just exploded, the missiles followed the trajectories to be expected of unexploded kinetic ordnance. They passed right through the bodies of the vehicles, leaving them largely undamaged (despite having just exploded), punching neat exit holes in each chassis (or maybe only one of them), and penetrating the roadway beneath, leaving nice round holes in the road’s surface.

OK, Plan B: they didn’t explode on impact or on their way down after all. They exploded after they penetrated the tarmac, which is why they aren’t still there at the bottom of the holes — except, unfortunately, there are no detonation craters, and no evidence of detonation damage to the underside of the vehicles, nor shrapnel in the bodywork (but these were DIME weapons, remember, whose carbon casing disintegrates on detonation. [But wait a minute: they did dispense the shrapnel that wounded the witnesses. Oh well.]).

Back to Plan A, then. The missiles confidently exploded on their way down, and then, cleverly still intact (as witnessed by the circular puncture marks in the tarmac), plunged beneath the surface of the road, where all trace of them disappeared, because they had already exploded somewhere in the cabin above, and couldn’t have done the vampire bite trick in the first place …..

Come off it.

Update: See also some pretty crisp forensic analysis from Al Hamatzav here and here.

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One comment

  1. I’m pretty much shocked that this circulated so much for all that effort to fall flat at the revelation of it being a hoax. I guess the media is biased after all!



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