Israeli army embarrassed by video broadcast
The Israeli army has expressed a note of contrition after a television station aired a videotape showing an army assault on a Palestinian home in which a mother of five children died.
When CBC News spoke with Ismail Hawarjeh at Bethlehem's hospital earlier this month, there was no way to verify the story he told about how his wife had died, until Israel's Channel 2 broacast the tape last weekend.
The Palestinian school administrator said his wife Huda had been killed in their home by an Israeli tank shell during the army's March 8 assault on the Aida refugee camp. The army wouldn't comment and foreign journalists weren't allowed inside the camp.
But Israeli media were allowed to ride along with the soldiers, and they went right into the Hawarjeh home. An Israeli camera recorded the army blowing off the door, and found Huda Hawarjeh bleeding on the floor.
The pictures conformed to Ismail Hawarjeh's story about his wife being hit by shrapnel in the front hallway of the house, and about the Israeli soldiers doing little to help her for an hour while she bled to death in front of her five children.
Finally, the soldiers allowed an ambulance to come to a nearby street, and soldiers helped Hawarjeh carry his wife to it. Doctors tried to revive her at the hospital but couldn't.
Huda Hawarjeh was one of seven people to die in the Bethlehem area that day.
The Israeli army allows the media such close access on the understanding it can embargo anything it doesn't want broadcast.
The tapes of the assault on the Hawarjeh home fell into that category. But Channel 2 broke the embargo anyway.
The army, government and many Israeli citizens didn't like what they saw.
Channel 2 showed Hawarjeh begging soldiers to allow an ambulance through. The camera captured the terror of the woman's daughter, and her brother's attempt to stop her from showing the soldiers her fear.
After the woman was finally taken out, one of the soldiers looked into the camera and said: "I don't know what we're doing here. Purification, maybe. It's dirty here. I don't know why a good Hebrew boy should be here, so far from his home."
The soldiers tore the home apart, evidently looking for weapons.
Another daughter begged them not to demolish the home's wall. Soldiers commonly smash walls to move into adjacent houses.
Israeli spokesman Ranaan Gissin said the government was disappointed by the decision to air the tapes. "I would have expected a little bit more self-censorship on the part of the Israeli media," he said.
Ma'ariv, Israel's second-biggest newspaper, ran the story on its front page on Monday, under a banner headline that read "Gaffe!"
The army, after trying to suppress distribution of the pictures, admitted the soldiers' actions pushed the boundaries of public acceptance.
"Our action is so difficult to be done that it is to the extremities of acceptance," said Olivier Rafowicz, an Israeli Defence Force spokesman.
He called what happened in the Hawarjeh home "a mistake."