Hamas’ main command and control bunker, unlike the supposed safe house, which proved to be less than safe for the now dead Hamas commanders, was absolutely impervious to Israeli air attack. This was so for two reasons. The first was that it was located deep underground, with a five story building on top of it.
The second reason was that the five story building in question was, in fact, a hospital.
The great irony, which almost always brought a smile to the lips of Yasser Darwish, was that it was the Israelis themselves who had built the beginnings of the complex of bunkers beneath Building #2 of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital. They had done so in 1983, in order to create an underground operating theater and patient facilities which would be impervious to Palestinian terrorist attacks, or resistance actions, depending on what side of the suicide bomb you happened to find yourself. All this was at the height of the Israeli occupation, when the hospital was meant to treat not only Palestinian civilians, but to provide immediate care for severely wounded Israeli soldiers, as well.
Hamas, after having gunned down their Fatah rivals during their coup in 2007, engaged in one of their first acts of civic improvement: a major construction project at Shifa Hospital. None of it had anything to do with patient care. Instead, they enlarged the original Israeli underground facility, and built a huge command and control bunker, as well as luxurious, secure living spaces in which all of the Hamas elite could hide comfortably in times of the wars they were planning to initiate against Israel.
There was a very conscious decision, on the other hand, not to provide shelters for ordinary Gazans above ground.
This became part of what was later referred to, even amongst themselves, as “The Dead Baby” strategy.
The modern “Dead Baby Strategy” was born in 2002, during Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield, in the West Bank. This full-scale reoccupation of the West Bank came in response to a wave of suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, culminating in what the Jews called, “The Passover Massacre”.
The “Passover Massacre” was a modest affair, as our more contemporary massacres go. Still, it killed a respectable number of the Zionist enemy. A Palestinian suicide bomber, Abdel-Basset Odeh, disguised as a religious Jewish woman, detonated himself at a Passover Seder, at the Park Hotel in the Israeli seaside town of Netanya. Thirty Israelis were killed during the holiday celebration, and another 140 wounded.
Some of the victims were Holocaust survivors.
Those killed ranged from twenty years of age, to ninety.
Numbers of married couples were killed together, which was either a blessing, or a curse, depending upon one’s point of view. All, however, agreed that the father who was killed alongside his daughter, could only be seen as a tragedy.
Israel responded to the “Passover Massacre” by re-occupying the West Bank, especially the refugee camp in Jenin, which proudly called itself “The Suicide Bombing Capital of the world”.
Dani Kahan, who’d returned from Hawaii to become the Intel Officer for the reserve Paratroop Battalion that went into Jenin, vividly recalled the posters that lined the walls of the small town of cinderblock houses, which was still referred to as a refugee camp, conjuring up images of long gone tents and soup kitchens, some half a century after its founding, and the tent city’s demise.
At first, he thought the posters that lined the walls of Jenin were for cheesy Arabic action films. Each one featured a Palestinian warrior with a Rambo headband, crossed bandoliers, and an AK 47. But the posters that were on and inside virtually every home, were not of young Palestinian would-be Stallones or Schwarzeneggers. They were all suicide bombers whom, it was fervently hoped for in Jenin, were now enjoying the favors of the seventy-two promised virgins. These holy “martyrs” were responsible for killing some one thousand Israelis, including Dani’s ex-wife and nine-year-old son, who had been ripped to shreds by sixty nails that tore through his body, two of which lodged in his brain, which turned out, Dani supposed, to be some sort of blessing, because his son was burned over sixty percent of his body as well. Unfortunately, his ex-wife, Anat, a sweet girl, whose only fault that day was in succumbing to her son’s desire for a slice of pizza, lingered to watch her child die in front of her, before she succumbed to her own wounds.
The perpetrator of the suicide bombing was the twenty-five year old son of the wealthiest restaurant owner in the city of Jenin, which bordered the camp. His name decorated every home in the area referred to as the refugee camp. Ahmed Ahmal Al Shukeri was their favorite son.
Al Shukeri was escorted to the restaurant by an attractive, twenty-year-old Hamas activist, who disguised herself as an Israeli college student. Her name was Leila Dahlan. She was one of the one thousand terrorists released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. After her release, she gave an interview on Al Jazeera, in which she stated that she had made her escape from the scene of the bombing by taking an Arab bus near the Damascus gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The driver had the radio on, she said. As the first news reports of the suicide bombing came on, everyone started congratulating each other. “They didn’t even know each other, yet they were exchanging greetings, you know, as if our football team had just won a championship. When I heard the first reports and they said only three had been killed I was grief-stricken, but as the death toll rose to eight, I couldn’t hide my smile. And when they said fifteen were killed, I said, ‘Allah be praised’.”
No matter how much he drank, Dani could never stop hearing her voice in his head from that interview, after she was released. And in Jenin, in 2002, everywhere he looked, he saw the Rambo pose of the heroic martyr, who had ripped his tender young son’s body to shreds.
The battle to clean the terrorists out of Jenin was a difficult one. Twenty-three Israelis were killed and fifty-two Palestinians, of which over forty were wearing combat boots and had weapons next to them.
It was a battle the terrorists had prepared for, well in advance. Indeed, in retrospect, Dani suspected the suicide bombing in Netanya was carried out precisely to suck the Israelis into “The Suicide Bombing Capital of The World” in order to grind up the Israeli troops they knew would be brought in to retake the terrorist enclave.
The refugee camp had been largely evacuated of civilians before the Israeli forces arrived. After that, almost every room of every house in the center of the rabbit warren of streets that made up the “camp” was booby trapped. To that generation of terrorists’ credit, the “Dead Baby Strategy” had not yet become a matter of doctrine. Indeed, when compared to today’s breed of terrorist, they appeared almost quaint in their adherence to a certain ethical creed, which dictated that they first evacuated their civilians from the battlefield they had prepared, in which they intended to defeat the Zionist forces.
Now, in almost any Western army in the world, to say nothing of the armies of non-Western countries, when you have an area that has been clearly identified as a terrorist enclave, and in fact bills itself, proudly, as the Suicide Bombing Capital of the World, you flatten it.
You can do that in a variety of ways, all of which are, more or less, equally effective. You can bomb it out of existence, either with air assets, or heavy artillery, or you can bring in tanks. Usually you do all three, which is euphemistically referred to as “softening the target”, before you send in light infantry to mop up what’s left.
But Israel, even in 2002, knew it had to play by a different set of rules, knew that it would be judged as a war criminal for the exact actions carried out by the armies of those who would judge her.
Thus there was no “softening” of the target. No air strikes. No bombardment of 155 mm howitzers, and no tanks. This was not entirely done out of public relations, nor for humanitarian concerns. There was a certain amount of hubris or arrogance involved, as well. Israel had been going after wanted terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza for years. These operations were seen as “policing” actions, rather than war. Israeli special operators staged raids on an ongoing basis in the West Bank, surrounding the houses of “wanted” men, and arresting, or killing them, should they be foolish enough to offer resistance.
There was a difference, the Israelis reasoned, between terrorists and armies. They had contempt for the former, and respect for the latter’s abilities. What they had not yet imagined was the hybrid that was now in its embryonic stages; a terrorist army.
Thus, without softening up the target, they sent light infantry into the Jenin Refugee Camp. As an intelligence officer, Dani blamed himself for part of the hubris. But that was only part of the sin of which he was guilty.
He wanted revenge.
He wanted, personally, to kill the men who had sent Al Shukeri and Dahlan into Jerusalem, and murdered his ex-wife and nine-year-old son. The words of King David’s lament after the death of his son rang incessantly in his brain. O Absalom, my son, my son, would that I had died in your place, my son, Absalom, my son, my son!
And, not having died in his place, Dani would now kill, to avenge him, instead.
As many as he could.
He prayed for it.
There is a Rabbinic tale, that says hatred is like holding boiling water in your hands, hoping to find the person you want to throw it on.
It ends up burning you, instead.
So it was in Jenin. Through a combination of disdain, underestimating the enemy, hubris, and a desire for revenge, Israel sent in a reservist battalion of paratroopers. Thirty- five and forty-year-old married men, some with pot bellies, some who hadn’t trained in far too long a time, without softening the target, they sent them, marching like idiots, into the Suicide Bombing Capital of The World, the “refugee camp” in Jenin.
They knew the names of the terrorists they were after. This would be an arrest operation like hundreds of others before it. They entered the city of Jenin in Armored Personnel Carriers, and like ninteenth century dragoons who rode horses to the scenes of battle and then DISMOUNTED, and fought on foot, they went walking into the terrorist army’s lair.
Contrary to what had actually happened, Dani and other senior intel officers assumed the camp was still heavily populated with civilians. This was another reason for sending in light infantry and working slowly, house by house. They were seeking to avoid large-scale civilian casualties, which they were sure would occur if they deployed artillery and armor.
Ironically, after the battle you could see that not even a flowerpot was out of place on the porches of the suburban homes of the city of Jenin, outside the camp. The Israelis had parked their Armored Personnel Carriers, dismounted, and not so much as touched a one of those houses, because they knew that none of the men they were looking for were inside of them. The terrorists they were after were in the “camp”.
There was a main road that skirted the camp and then made a sharp right turn into an alleyway, which lead into the heart of it. They had no idea it was, in fact, neither a camp, nor a city, but a meticulously prepared battlefield.
A D9 armored Caterpillar bulldozer was sent in to widen the alleyway to clear a pathway for tanks or APCs if that became necessary, and to detonate any booby traps which might be present. It was accompanied by an Israeli-made Merkava III tank.
As the Reserve Battalion Intel officer, Dani rode in the armored cabin of the D9, pointing out the way from the map he had been issued in the briefing the night before. Suddenly, they were taking fire from every rooftop. At first, it was the ping of M16s and AK 47s against their armor, then heavy machine gun fire, and then anti-tank rockets.
“Go, go go!” Dani shouted at the driver and radioed back to battalion, “We’re taking fire from the rooftops! This is a trap!”
The Reserve Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Oded Zamir, turned to his Air Force close air support liaison officer. Dani was shouting that they needed an F-15 strike. But in the Kirya, the decision was made against anything that could create that much collateral damage. They dispatched AH-1 Cobra helicopters, instead, to take out the Palestinians’ rooftop positions with precision wire-guided missiles.
By the time the D9 and Merkava III had penetrated almost two kilometers into the heart of the camp, widening the alleyway, and then withdrawn, Dani counted 115 detonations of IED booby traps.
Back at the battalion forward command post, Dani said they were marching into a disaster. They had to go in, in force, in tanks and armored personnel carriers, and not on foot. If they didn’t want to use tanks and refused to simply flatten the houses from which they were under fire, they should hit the corner of the house with a D9 bulldozer, knock down a wall, and then jam up in an APC and dismount paratroopers straight into the opening, instead of marching them through the alleyways of the camp, where they’d be ground up like sausage.
“I’m not going to be tried for giving the order to kill a bunch of civilians!” Zamir shouted back at him. “You think CNN isn’t going to be all over this? I guarantee you, there’s some army lawyer in the Kirya right now, opening cases. It’s just a question of who they’re going to file against first. And I’m not going to be the one, because you’re afraid of a bunch of guys with headbands and Kalashnikovs!”
“I’m the battalion intelligence officer,” Dani said, fighting down the bile he felt rising from his gut, “and I am putting in writing my official assessment and recommendation. You want to give the order to go in on foot? You can bear responsibility for that, too! You’re more afraid of a commission of inquiry than you are of getting your own people killed!”
“Who the blazes do you think you’re talking to?” Zamir said, the spittle flying into Dani’s face, “You come waltzing in here from Hawaii, and just because they killed your kid you want a massacre?! Huh?! You think you can’t be brought up on charges, Kahan? You think you can’t be relieved?”
“The Devil take you!” Dani said, and stormed out of the tent. But Zamir followed after him.
“I’m giving you an order, Kahan! Refuse it and I’ll court martial you, right here, on the spot! You turn to me, and stand at attention!”
Dani turned to him, not sure if he would stand at attention, or kill him. He wasn’t thinking about a court martial, or prison time. He was contemplating murder. His hand slipped onto his M4 as if straightening it in its sling. He indiscernibly thumbed the safety up to semi-auto. All he had to do now was pull back the action, and chamber a round. He edged his left hand toward the action of the M4 as if adjusting its weight, and smiled softly.
Zamir eyed him. “You want to be a hero?” he said, “Tomorrow, at 06:00 hours, Company B goes in, as briefed, and you go in with them as Intelligence Officer. Now you salute and say, ‘Yes, Commander’, or we can start the court martial, for refusing a direct order in time of war, right now.”
Dani looked at him a long time. Men were going to die tomorrow. He could be with them or not. But this idiot was sending them to their deaths, and suddenly, death didn’t seem like such a bad idea to Dani Kahan.
“Yes, Commander,” he said, smiled more broadly, saluted, and left.
At 06:00 hours the next morning, B Company entered the camp on foot.
From his observation post inside one of the cinderblock houses halfway down the alley, Awad Hamadi, Deputy Commander of the Palestinian Forces in Jenin, could hardly believe his eyes. The arrogant, Zionist pig fools, were actually WALKING into the camp! No tanks. No APCs. Nothing. Just out for a stroll on a spring morning…
After the Israelis had widened the alleyway the day before with the D9, he had prepared his men to escape. There was no way their preparations could defeat the Israeli tanks and helicopters. But now they were actually entering on foot. He sent the ten-year-old boy runner, Daoud, to pass along the order to remain in position.
The Israelis were in for a surprise.
As B Company turned right into the alleyway, with weapons at the ready, the paratroopers eyed the windows of the cinderblock homes, and rooftops, swinging their weapons this way and that, on the alert for would be snipers.
There was a deadly quiet to the place.
That was the first thing Dani noticed.
It was quiet because all the civilians had been warned this would be the scene of the battle and ninety percent of them, if not more, had already gone to take refuge with relatives outside of Jenin. The only ones staying in the heart of the camp were those who, quite bravely, said, they would live and die alongside the fighters. There were a few children who, like Daoud, would serve as runners, and several women who had agreed to martyrdom.
As B Company rounded the right turn into the camp, Dani, as intel officer, was with the point man. It was Dani’s job to lead them, with the newly marked up maps they had gotten at the company briefing earlier, to the addresses of the “wanted” terrorists. They had up-to-date, actionable intelligence, Zamir had assured them.
There weren’t the usual smells of an Arab village, Dani remembered later. No smells of charcoal fires, or of coffee with cardamom, no sounds of livestock, dogs, or children.
Down the alleyway, Daoud had passed the word to the Palestinian cohorts, who were all thanking Allah for the gift they were about to be given.
As the Israeli paratroop company neared the wall of the third home on the left, in the alley, nineteen-year-old Mahmoud Zouabi held the cell phone Awad Hamadi had issued him.
He wiped the perspiration from his palms. He felt the beads of sweat, stinging, dripping into his eyes from his forehead, as the Israelis slowly advanced downhill, through the alleyway. He recognized one of the Israelis in front. He had seen him in the cabin of the D9 bulldozer, leading the way for the tank, the day before. Too bad he is up front, Mahmoud thought.
Buried inside the wall of the third house on the left in the alley, were five kilograms of explosives, wired to six propane gas tanks. With incredible discipline and sweat streaming down his face now, despite the springtime morning chill, Mahmoud waited until the first third of the company had passed the house, thus assuring that the main body of soldiers would be exposed to the full force of the bomb blast.
Then he whispered, “Allahu Akhbar!”, and pressed “send”.
The shock wave from the blast blew Dani across the street and into the wall of the building opposite him. Blood was streaming from his right ear. He couldn’t feel the right side of his face and he could hear nothing but the high pitched ringing in his ears. He fought not to lose consciousness and clear his head, but the ringing wouldn’t stop. Suddenly he was aware of the pain ripping through his left shoulder just below the protective covering of his flak jacket. He smelled cordite and blood. He looked back where his men had patrolled just moments before, and saw one of his friends, Yair Levy, cut in half, his entrails spilling out of his body. The sounds gradually began to override the ringing; men screaming, gunfire, more explosions of grenades, as he felt someone grab his flak jacket and pull him inside a doorway, just as machine gun fire stitched its way down the alley, where he had been lying, trying to clear the ringing from his head. His pal Chaimkeh, built like a bear, had dragged him with one hand, while firing his M4 with the other, to the sudden relative safety of the doorway.
Dani saw at least a dozen, maybe more of his men strewn, broken and bloodied, some still writhing, others staring blankly to the heavens, dead or dying, in an alley of blood that flowed downhill toward him.
Then he heard the woman shout “Allahu Akhbar!”
He wheeled his M4 instinctively, and he and Chaimkeh shot at the same moment. Chaimkeh had hit her in the head, but Dani’s shot hit her center mass and detonated the suicide belt. He felt the heat of the blast searing his skin, the shrapnel whizzing past him, the door behind him blown open from the force of the blast, the burning pain in his leg and saw Chaimkeh blown backward, blood streaming, and brains showing, from where his forehead had been only a moment before.
Suddenly he heard footsteps rushing downstairs toward him from inside the cinderblock house. He pulled a grenade out of the upper pouch of his combat vest, pulled the pin, though the pain now in his left shoulder was almost unbearable. He let the “spoon” fly off the M26A1 grenade, thus igniting its fuse. He counted to three in order to let the fuse burn down, so whoever was coming down those stairs to kill him, wouldn’t have time to pick the grenade up and throw it back outside at him. He threw it inside the doorway and dodged back against the wall for cover.
The grenade exploded two seconds later, just inside the house, and he heard the screams. Then he thumbed the safety on the M4 to full automatic, led with the gun, and ducked inside the doorway, spraying a long burst into what was left of the four terrorists’ dead and dying, ripped bodies, flowing blood, staring, some of them, with that same vacant look of the dead Israelis outside. Chaimkeh no longer had eyes with which to see. His skull had been blown open from the middle of his face to his helmet, offering an obscene view of his brains blown apart by the shrapnel.
Dani looked across the street and there on the wall opposite him saw the heroic pose of Ahmed Ahmal Al Shukeri, and swore he would not die today, not in front of Shukeri’s Rambo gaze. Not today.
He had emptied his clip on the now-dead terrorists, but had a second clip duct taped to it, separated by a plastic wedge to allow it to slide into the weapon unobstructed. The second clip was upside down, so all he had to do was thumb the release, reverse the magazine and snap the action, chambering a new round. He kept the safety on “full auto” and led with the weapon, pointing it around the corner of the doorway, down the alleyway, and firing off a short burst to give himself cover as he ran across the street. Just as he made his dash, a kid, probably not more than fifteen, jumped from a doorway into the middle of the alley, and threw a grenade at Dani. It bounced between Dani and the doorway, so that if Dani had jumped back into the house with the dead terrorists, it would still have blown him apart.
So he did something insane.
The boy didn’t have a weapon on him. His only weapon had been the grenade, and not having had Dani’s experience in combat, he had not let the fuse ignite before throwing it. Thus there was time for Dani to save his life. Had he picked up the grenade and thrown it back at the kid, the fragmentation would still have gotten him. He might have had the satisfaction of knowing the kid would die with him, but he had already sworn not to die today beneath Al Shukeri’s heroic gaze.
So Dani charged the kid, grabbed him and spun him around, and used the kid for a shield. The kid was looking into Dani’s eyes in disbelief and terror as the grenade exploded.
It detonated with a blinding flash and the fragments tore through the kid as Dani looked into his eyes, heard him scream, and felt him twitch into his death dance, and dropped him.
Dani ran and dove into the open courtyard of the second house in the alley, where what was left of the company had sheltered. The company commander, Captain Benji Shiloach, was dead. The radio was destroyed. Those men still able to fight were struggling up the stairs, fighting room to room and setting off yet more booby traps. But they all knew they had to reach the rooftop if they were to survive the onslaught of Palestinians who now began advancing on their position, raining fire down on them from every direction.
The firefight went on for almost three hours, until they were finally rescued by a company of regular army special operators.
Zamir, meanwhile, had ordered in the D9 bulldozers and Armored Personnel Carriers, and they were doing exactly what Dani had laid out for him the day before.
The bulldozers led the way, punching an opening through the wall of whatever house the terrorists were using for cover. Then the D9 hit reverse and an APC jammed right up to the newly created hole and disgorged its fighters.
The Palestinians withdrew further into the center of the camp, and now, when they came up to a structure, Zamir had orders given over the loudspeaker for those inside to surrender. He gave them five minutes and then gave the order to bulldoze the house. If they came out and surrendered, they were taken prisoner. If not, they could stay in the house and be bulldozed along with it.
It’s hard to outrun a bomb, but pretty easy to outrun a bulldozer, so in terms of the way in which one could destroy the center of a town, it was without doubt, the most humane method.
Slowly, methodically, the Israelis bulldozed an area the size of a football field.
The Palestinians, seeing the bulldozers, almost without exception surrendered.
Dani was evacuated to Tel Hashomer hospital.
He had shrapnel in his left leg and shoulder, a torn rotator cuff, a broken collarbone, and a punctured right ear drum.
From that day on, he was determined never to underestimate the enemy again.
The battle of Jenin was over.
The Palestinians had fought bravely.
So had the Israelis.
But the PR battle was just beginning.
For, if the Jews had started this war because of the “Passover Massacre”, both Hamas and the PLO were determined to one-up them, and have a massacre of their own.
The Jenin Massacre!
Arafat began referring to the camp as Jeningrad!
Eyewitnesses swore that the Israelis had lined up whole families, and machine gunned them, killing at least five hundred people, and then shoving their corpses, Nazi-style, into a ditch that they hastily covered over with dirt shoveled in by a bulldozer. The entire world jumped on the story. The Jews had committed an horrific atrocity, “The Jenin Massacre”!
The UN promptly sent a representative to investigate the Israeli-committed slaughter of innocents. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larson, on his first day in Jenin, called it the worst war crime since Bosnia. Tearful widows wailed before the cameras about dead husbands and sons, mothers and fathers, buried in the mass grave that the Israelis had hastily dug, to mask their Hitlerian, barbaric act.
Dani watched it all on CNN, in his hospital room, in amazement. And, ironically, while the PLO and Hamas media spinners were bemoaning the “Jenin Massacre” in English, their newspapers were bragging, in Arabic, about the fact that they had killed scores of Israeli paratroopers, in a Divine Victory, while only losing a few dozen martyred warriors, themselves!
Israel demanded an investigation. It demanded that the UN find the mass grave and show the bodies of the slaughtered five hundred victims of “the worst war crime since Bosnia”.
A month later the UN issued its report which was carried in two-inch columns on the back pages of every newspaper that had screamed, in doomsday headlines, about Israel’s massacre of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians.
The result of the UN investigation?
Fifty-two Palestinians killed in a battle, which claimed the lives of twenty-three Israeli soldiers. Of the fifty-two dead Palestinians, some forty were military aged men, wearing combat boots.
No mass grave.
No hundreds of corpses of whole families slaughtered together.
No questions asked of the “eyewitnesses” who, weeping copious tears, recounted their tales of horror.
It was all a lie.
And it didn’t matter.
The “Jenin Massacre” was now part of the narrative of Jewish atrocities and Palestinian victimization.
And the “Dead Baby Strategy” was born. It thus became Hamas, The PLO and Hezbollah’s doctrine to carry out acts of terrorism, while making sure they wore, always, the mantle of victimhood.
One would not exist without the other.
To insure that there were dead babies to show an all-too-willing press, which followed the age-old dictum, “If it bleeds, it leads”, part of the doctrine entailed firing rockets and mortars from within schools and mosques, even from within UN schools, or at the very least, next to civilian houses.
The calculus was a simple one.
Fire a rocket next to a school or home.
If it kills an Israeli, that’s a victory.
If the Israelis fire back, and kill Palestinians, that’s a bigger victory.
If you fire a rocket, and kill an Israeli, and then they fire back and kill Palestinians, that’s the biggest victory of all!
Terrorism, wearing the mantle of victimhood.
In the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah brought the Dead Baby Strategy to a level of macabre perfection. Because not all reporters could get to the scene of an Israeli bomb attack at the same time, Hezbollah had crews “dig up” the dead babies and then race them to a waiting ambulance, which took off with sirens screaming, for the benefit of whatever news crews were on hand.
Then, when those crews left, they reburied the corpses of the dead babies, and waited for the next news crew to arrive, then dug them up again, and raced them once more to the waiting ambulances, which dutifully sped off with sirens screaming. And each tableau was accompanied by wailing women, shocked at the just-discovered remains of their loved ones, murdered by the Nazi-like Jews…
In one instance, they dug up, reburied, and rediscovered the same corpses for a half dozen different news crews. The fact that some of the dead babies were dug up in the morning, and then rediscovered at night, made no difference.
And when there were no dead babies, they staged funerals of martyrs wrapped in white sheets for the news crews. And when the crews got their footage of the tragic burial processions, and left, the corpses, magically, came to life, and got off their funeral biers. The fact that an Israeli surveillance drone actually filmed a supposed corpse magically resurrected, after the western camera crew left, and distributed the footage via YouTube mattered not a whit.
There was one narrative, and one only.
Israelis bombed, and Palestinian babies died.
The only Western reporter who resisted the “Dead Baby Strategy” during the Second Lebanon War was, as Dani recalled, Anderson Cooper. He was reporting from Beirut, and Hezbollah offered him the same faked footage his colleagues were gobbling up, and Cooper, not yet the rock star he would later become, refused, and left Beirut to cover the war from Israel. Dani referred to him as the Righteous Gentile.
However, it was that same “Dead Baby Strategy” which Dani so bemoaned from his hospital room, after the “Jenin Massacre” of 2002, which was about to save Israel from the greatest catastrophe in its history.
In Gaza, as Yasser Darwish now explained his original plan to Khaled Kawasme and Abdul Aziz Al-Tikriti, in the comfort of the underground lounge in the Hamas elite living space, below Shifa hospital, an aide brought cups of freshly-pulled Italian espresso for the three of them.
Darwish lamented the “Dead Baby Strategy”, which had won out over his original concept.
He sipped the espresso, which he preferred now to the thick Turkish coffee with cardamom, which had been such a fixture in their culture before the advent of the wonderful Italian machines with their individual pods. So convenient.
“What was the original plan?” Al-Tikriti asked.
“During the Jews’ holiday of Rosh Hashanah,” Darwish explained, “my original plan called for infiltrating between five hundred and a thousand Hamas fighters, each armed with anti-tank missiles, machine guns, grenades, plastic handcuffs, and tranquilizers. The Jews always send the majority of their soldiers home for their so-called High Holidays.”
This was how Egypt and Syria launched their surprise attack on Yom Kippur, forty years earlier. All along the border with Gaza, thousands of Jews, in little agricultural villages, with communal dining halls, would be eating the holiday meal. Some of the dining halls held up to eight hundred people.
“Can you imagine it, Brothers?” Darwish said, “We could have killed thousands and taken hundreds hostage.”
Al-Tikriti stared at him in disbelief, “What do you mean ‘could have’? Why don’t you? It’s perfect!”
“Money,” Darwish said, shaking his head at the lost opportunity to implement a plan, which was his life’s work, five years in the making.
Hamas’ benefactor had been Iran. But Iran, being a Shiite country, was backing Bashar Al Assad’s Shia government in their civil war against the Syrian Sunnis.
Hamas was a Sunni organization. And thus, they withdrew their support of Iran, for the latter having participated in the slaughter of over 100,000 of their fellow Sunni Moslems.
Iran, in turn, cut off all financial support to Hamas.
“Then,” said Darwish, “that Jew-loving pig, Abbas,” which was how he always referred to the PLO President of the Palestine Authority on the West Bank, “that Jew loving pig Abbas cuts off our money as well! All of a sudden, we can’t pay forty thousand of our bureaucrats… Or our fighters!”
“But,” said Al-Tikriti, “What about Qatar? They have promised to pay you. They are Sunni, just as we are.”
“Yes, but that’s the problem, my Brother,” Darwish said, leaning back in his leather wing chair and lighting up his nargilah, which he always enjoyed with the Italian espresso. “The political leadership is afraid that if we carry out the Rosh Hashanah attack without warning, and the Qataris support us, they will become pariahs. They will lose the Americans, the Saudis, the Emirates, the Jew-loving pig Egyptians; everyone will turn against them. The Qataris are like immoral women, worse than whores. They want to lie in everyone’s bed. So the political leadership says, ‘We cannot do the Rosh Hashanah plan. We have to go back to our doctrine. Make the Jews attack us, show the dead babies, and then we can attack their civilians with our Divine weapon’, and we say, ‘what choice do we have?’
“Do we have F-15’s?
“So, we must use the other means that we have planned, my brother, for five years, and which the Jews will never see coming in a million years.”
“Money!” said Al-Tikriti derisively. “That is why the first thing we did was to take the oil wells in Iraq, and rob their banks, and steal and sell their antiquities. You cannot be a true warrior of Allah, if you have to suck at the tit of the Qataris!”
“If only we had known you sooner, brother,” Darwish said, passing the nargilah to Al-Tikriti, “we would have been free of the political leadership, AND the Qataris.”
“Timing,” said Kawasme. “Everything is timing.”
Al-Tikriti took a deep drag of the fragrant smoke of the nargilah into his lungs and exhaled languorously. “If,” he said, “this weapon of Divine Victory is as you have described it, you won’t need the charity of the Qataris.”
“It is, my brother,” said Darwish. So saying, he finished his espresso, glanced at his Patek Philippe watch, politely excused himself, and entered Hamas’ main command and control bunker. There he gave the final order to proceed with the launching of over a hundred rockets at the Zionist entity.
Some were fired from next to Shifa Hospital, some from next to the Is Al A Din Mosque, others next to a hotel housing foreign journalists, while others were fired from next to Wafa hospital, and still others from next to the Shati Refugee Camp. Almost all were fired from pre-prepared underground sites, as they had learned to do from Hezbollah, in Lebanon. And almost all were fired from within the densely populated civilian neighborhoods and suburbs of Gaza City. Let the Jews fire back all they wanted. Whether the rockets hit their marks or not was of little importance. The “Dead Baby Strategy” always hit its bull’s eye: the foreign press.
And with that, the third war between Hamas and Israel, in five years, began.
But this one, Darwish knew, would be different.
This one, Insh Allah, unlike Jenin, or the Second Lebanon War, or the wars of 2009 and 2012, THIS war, would bring the Zionists to their knees.
And as one hundred rockets fired off toward Israel, Tera Dayton, Darwin Washburn, Raul Peña and Clint McKeever were all landing in Iraqi Kurdistan to see whether ISIL, and its operatives, now safely ensconced beneath Shifa Hospital in Gaza, were indeed just the JV team in Kobe Bryant jerseys, or not.