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Media Analyses





Khalil's Latest Story Full of Holes


Another week, another tale of horrors suffered in the Gaza Strip reported by Ashraf Khalil of the Los Angeles Times. Last week there was Yousef Abu Rjeila of the southern Gaza Strip. Today there are Sherine and Ammar Helw of Gaza City. Besides the unspeakable cruelties said to have been carried out on the part of the Israeli army, what is significant about both these accounts is their lack of consistency with other sources -- Palestinian among them ("Gaza family recounts day of horror").

Thus, Khalil relates the harrowing tale of 14 family members sheltering from Israeli shells and airstrikes under their staircase early in the morning of January 4. Khalil writes:

As the troops burst inside, family members said Fuad Helw, 55, jumped up with his arms in the air.

"We all put our hands up and yelled, 'We're women and children. We're not the resistance," recalled Sherine Helw, Fuad's daughter-in-law.

The soldiers opened fire on Fuad, said Sherine, and he died in front of his family.

Further along in the article, Khalil describes ensuing events, which are worth recounting in all their terrible detail :

Fuad Helw died almost immediately in the courtyard of the family home, relatives said. But then the Arabic-speaking Israeli soldier seemed to take pity. Sherine said he told them, "Don't be afraid. We don't target women and children."

She described how the soldier talked on his radio, and then announced that the 13 remaining family members could walk to safety together. They left the soldiers and headed up a dirt road, seven women, four children and two adult males, Ammar Helw, 29, and his brother Abdullah, 18.

As the group walked, Sherine said, they were taunted in vulgar Arabic by an Israeli soldier hiding in a nearby house.

Then, farther down the road, shots began to rain upon them from a home across the road to the east, family members said. Farah Helw, Sherine and Ammar's 1-year-old daughter, was struck in the abdomen, family members said, and Abdullah was shot in the hand. The family believes the shooters were Israeli soldiers.

Dragging their wounded, they said, they crawled to shelter behind one of the 8-foot-high hills created by Israeli bulldozers on the edge of a lemon grove. . .

The Helw family members say they took shelter there from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sherine said she cradled her injured daughter to her chest and tried to breast-feed her but that she died in her arms.

When the other young children grew hungry, Ammar says he fed them lemons from the nearby trees.

After sunset, an Israeli soldier approached. Ammar and his brother spoke to them in English and broken Hebrew. The soldier offered medical help for the wounded, but Ammar was in no mood for Israeli charity.

"I yelled at him, 'You told us it would be safe to leave the house! Is this your safety?' He didn't answer but he acted like he was upset and said he'd get an ambulance," Ammar said. "I told him, 'You just killed my father and daughter. Now you're going to treat us?' "

More soldiers came. They handcuffed and blindfolded Ammar and put his injured brother on a stretcher. The soldiers, they said, took the wounded away and turned them over to the Red Cross a day later. The uninjured were finally permitted to walk out of the conflict zone.  . . .

Ammar said he spent five days in Israeli custody, most of it blindfolded and without food or water.

After reuniting with his family, who were staying with relatives, they returned to their home Jan. 19, he said, but found it in ruins. Ammar alleges that Israeli soldiers smashed the computer and stole the family jewelry.

He said he also found his father's body, 30 feet from the house, haphazardly buried under dirt and chunks of cactus plants.

"These aren't human beings, I swear to God," Ammar said.

Thus, according to the Helws, the patriarch Fuad was killed on January 4 at his home, while his body was recovered more than two weeks later -- on January 19. Khalil insists that there "are no independent accounts of what happened that day," yet CAMERA easily found information from a Palestinian story, albeit brief, which contradicted the Helws' story. According to a Jan. 5 report by Palestinian Center for Human Rights:

At approximately 17:30, on Sunday [January 4], the corpses of Fouad Mahmoud Alhelo, 55, and his grandson [sic] Farah Amar Alhelo were transmitted to the Shefa'a Hospital. They died as a result of gunshot wounds received while at thier home in Hay Alzaytoun. Relatives stated that they had been hit by Israeli forces operating in the area.

(Spelling variations are common in English translations of Arabic names. It is clear that PCHR is describing the same victims that Khalil features.) In other words, Fuad's body was brought to the morgue the very day he was killed -- not more than two weeks later. If the family cannot be trusted to relay the truth about the recovery of the father's body, what other horrific details have they invented about their day of horror? And why does their story, as told to the Los Angeles Times, have numerous inconsistencies with the account given to the Tales To Tell blog, written by an unnamed activist with the International Solidarity Movement and the Free Gaza Movement?

A Death Untold

One thing that the blogger tells us that Khalil does not is that the Helws suffered another loss that day in addition to grandfather Fuad and baby Farah. The blog notes:

Amer didn't know it yet, but his brother Mohammed had already been killed elsewhere that day, struck by drone rockets.

Why didn't Khalil's detailed article, full of death and suffering, not include the fact that an additional family member died the very same day, compounding the already terrible tragedy? Could it be that that particular death did not fit with Khalil's strict narrative of Palestinian victimhood? Or that it was information that the Helws felt would not assist in their attempt to gain world sympathy and hatred of Israel? Or did the death of Mohammed go unreported because Khalil plays by Hamas rules which prohibit publishing information about Hamas casualties?  As it turns out, Amer's brother Mohammed, killed January 4, was in charge of Hamas special forces in Khan Yunis. And that's not a story you'll read by Ashraf Khalil.


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