The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, July 24, 2002  

Overkill in Gaza

Whatever happened to the much-vaunted Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad?

In its -- overly successful -- effort to assassinate Salah Shehadeh, said to be a military leader of the Islamic group Hamas, the Israeli government turned not to the Mossad but to the army.

“Our mission was to target the most influential military leader of the Hamas organization, a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis,” said Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, in an account published in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Unfortunately, along with him died several civilians, apparently innocent,” he added. “We are very sorry. We didn’t hope for such results.” [Emphasis added.]

By Maj. Gen. Harel’s account, then, the goal of the mission was to kill just one person. If so, rather than sending an Israeli pilot flying an American-made F-16 and “a one-ton laser-guided bomb into Al Daraj, a densely packed neighborhood, just after midnight,” couldn’t the Mossad have taken Shehadeh out with a single bullet at close range? This would have reduced the risk of collateral damage to roughly zero.

Israeli officials suggested the military underestimated the damage the bomb would cause in the surrounding area, which may well be true though the army’s extensive experience with this type of weapon could suggest otherwise.

So instead of one dead militia leader, at least 15 people were killed, including nine children, and 145 people were injured. We suppose authorities are now at work determining whether the two-month-old child killed in the assault was “apparently innocent” or had extensive ties to Hamas.

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