Journalists Change Story, Attempt Comeback

The story of the alleged Israeli missile or rocket attack on two Red Cross ambulances was one of Hezbollah’s decisive propaganda victories in the recent conflict in Lebanon. It was reported, world-wide, that the Israelis had attacked two Red Cross ambulances that were transporting wounded Lebanese; that rockets or missiles penetrated the roofs of both ambulances; that there were explosions and fires; and that a number of people were injured, including one man whose leg was amputated by a rocket or missile. Many details of the story, however, were reported inconsistently in various news accounts, and when photos and video footage of the ambulances were scrutinized, the story appeared to fall apart. Zombie performed the fullest analysis, which showed, among other things, that the ambulance that had been alleged, in hundreds of news stories, to have suffered a direct missile hit on the center of the red cross on its roof had in fact sustained no such thing.

Some journalists are now trying to rehabilitate the ambulance attack story. Blog of the Week Riehl World View, which has been one of the leaders on this story from the beginning, has updated coverage and links. The Age, an Australian newspaper, sent reporter Sarah Smiles to Beirut, where she looked at two ambulances and reported that one of them has a “huge hole through the back,” and claims that the story has been verified, even though earlier reports said that both ambulances were shot through the roof. In effect, she says that virtually all attention has been focused on the “wrong” ambulance, which she implicitly admits did not sustain a missile strike in the middle of its red cross after all.

Dan Riehl thinks this account, along with video and still footage, may support the media’s “missile attack” claims, at least in part:

Images of both ambulances do exist and I’ve edited a section of video, playing it back below at half speed to show the two ambulances together. In all honesty, I had set out to debunk claims by The Age that the photos we’ve been looking at were the wrong ones; however, careful analysis appears to depict what looks like a hit from something on a second ambulance and the location of it does line up with other basic elements of the story.

This new evidence suggests the strike in question very well may have been against the second ambulance. I’ve used a red arrow in a still frame image form the video to show what looks like the signs of such a strike.

Well, maybe. I can’t see what Riehl is talking about in the video; here it is, maybe others can make it out:

I also can’t make anything out of the still that Riehl posted. Nor can I figure out why, if the second ambulance showed clear evidence of a missile strike through the rear, the many photos I’ve seen of the ambulances don’t show it. It’s possible, of course, that such a picture exists and I just haven’t seen it. But it seems odd that the story in The Age, which relies entirely on Smiles’s description of the hole she saw, doesn’t include a photograph, at least in the online edition. (In this context, Smiles’s description of the photos and videos analyzed by Zombie as “evidence,” with scare quotes, is hilarious.) And to the extent that I’ve been able to make out the poor-quality photos and video showing the interiors of both ambulances, I’ve seen nothing corresponding to the damage that would be caused by a missile strike. If it was the second vehicle that actually showed missile damage, then why was Hezbollah propaganda focuses so heavily on the first one (number 782) with the apparently bogus hole in the roof?

Others have followed this story more closely than we have, and there may be photographic or video evidence somewhere that would show persuasively that an Israeli missile or rocket really did hit a Red Cross ambulance in Lebanon. (That would still leave open, of course, the question whether such a strike was intentional. The original evidence of intent was the now-debunked claim that the missile went right through the middle of the cross on ambulance number 782, as though it had been aimed there.) At this point, though, the story seems to be to be far from rehabilitated.

UPDATE: Tim Blair has more, including the photo that accompanied the story in the Age, which I’m taking the liberty of lifting. Click to enlarge:

So there is a big hole in the roof of the second ambulance. As Tim notes, it looks really, really old. It should be obvious, in any event, that a hole in the roof is not, in itself, proof that it was caused by an Israeli missile strike. (“If you don’t believe it, there’s the bed!”) So several obvious questions present themselves:

1) If that hole was made by an incoming missile, there should be a similar hole in the floorboard or elsewhere in the ambulance where the missile exited. Is there?

2) If the missile didn’t exit the ambulance, then presumably it exploded inside. Does the inside of the ambulance exhibit the sort of total devastation and destruction one would expect from an exploding missile, with, among other things, pieces of the exploded missile everywhere?

3) If the missile neither exited the ambulance nor exploded inside it, then presumably it is still lying on the floor of the ambulance. Is there an unexploded missile inside the ambulance?

Somehow, I have a feeling that the answer to all three questions is No. It is, frankly, ridiculous that observers around the world should be left to speculate as to whether the physical evidence of the ambulances supports Hezbollah’s claim that both were hit by Israeli missiles or rockets, when a competent examination would quickly resolve the issue.


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