Remember the school in Gaza...the UNRWA school in Gaza? Remember the sanctuary where 43 people were killed by an Israeli attack...remember how the world screamed because people had taken shelter inside the school and here Israel, knowing where the school was...hit it?
It was terrible. Remember all those pictures? Remember all the condemnations? The cries of massacres - deliberate murder and such. It was awful. It was tragic. It was...not accurate.
That's right - see - Israel did what it said it did. It aimed for the rocket launchers. Proof was there in the dead bodies near the launch - known Hamas terrorists. But pictures don't lie, right? If the UN says we hit their sanctuary and killed 43 people, shouldn't we lend some credibility to that report? Guess not.
It turns out - physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed.
That's right - NO ONE IN THE SCHOOL WAS KILLED.
The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed. Correctly - as the army intended - because they came under attack from Hamas terrorists who chose to fire within close proximity of the school. All those stories of one or more shells hitting the school were inaccurate. All those who took refuge inside the sanctuary of the school building were saved - only a few minor injuries.
A teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: "Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead." "Three of my students were killed," he said. "But they were all outside."
Hazem Balousha, who runs an auto-body shop across the road from the UNRWA school, was down the street, just out of range of the shrapnel, when the three shells hit. He showed a reporter where they landed: one to the right of his shop, one to the left, and one right in front. "There were only three," he said. "They were all out here on the road."
Isn't it interesting that the reporter didn't bother to file an accurate report? Isn't it interesting that the United Nations didn't bother to clarify this important point?
News of the tragedy travelled fast, with aid workers and medical staff quoted as saying the incident happened at the school, the UNRWA facility where people had sought refuge. Soon it was presented that people in the school compound had been killed. Before long, there was worldwide outrage.
John Ging, UNRWA's operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that "no one was killed in the school."
"I told the Israelis that none of the shells landed in the school," he said.
In its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: "On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school ..." Notice how they don't separate between those who were shooting rockets at Israeli forces? Notice that there is no mention of the launches from outside the school that triggered the Israeli response?
The UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited "early reports" that "three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School ..." However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that "Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools ..." including the one at issue.
Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.
That misconception that was allowed to linger - that blood libel against Israel and its army is sadly very typical of the United Nations treatment of Israel in general. For days, I received nasty notes from people calling Elie and his fellow soldiers horrible names. Others wrote of the tragedy of war and its victims.
And this is true - perhaps the truest of all facts in war. There are innocent victims; those who have done no harm and are caught in the middle. And, another fact is that there are those who seek to exploit the innocent. We all know that Hamas is guilty of this. Apparently, so too is UNRWA and the United Nations - who let a world cry out against a mistake that didn't happen.
Those who took shelter, were sheltered. Those who were outside and heard the mortars fired from near the school gambled with their lives when they didn't seek shelter or immediately leave the area.