Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Post 1 of The Nakba Day Killings: Just Another Day to Hate your Neighbor

Last week I realized I needed a place to park the screenshots, diagrams, video clips and blog posts that I was accumulating while making comments with several other blograts at the Elder of Zion (EoZ) blog. EoZ has long been my favorite web destination for keeping track of what goes on in the greater Arab Israeli conflict. I usually stop by there several times a day out of habit when I'm near a connected device.

The hot topic at EoZ was a new "al Dura" - another Pallywood production in the making. This time the Palestinians with the help of Western media were accusing the Israeli Border Police (Magav) of murdering two demonstrators at this year's Nakba Day demonstrations on May 15, 2014. The BP were reported to have shot to death two "children" who presented no threat to them at the time. 

I didn't expect and I didn't want to find that Israeli forces had done this. The Palestinians have a notorious reputation for lying about almost anything that could make Israel look bad. Western NGO's and media almost always went along with the false stories, even adding their own flavor to the mix, to fit the conventional wisdom of Israel's brutality - a narrative that they had largely helped the Palestinians create. The news stories coming out already smelled fishy but I wanted to check things out for myself . The posts, discussion and wide ranging comments in the EoZ forum were all over this story like a dog on a bone.

Problem was, so many new factoids and angles were busting out every day that I soon had a problem keeping track. Since I had used Google's Blogspot  in the past to organize other projects, I picked it for this one too. This page is the current result of my efforts in that direction. I leave it public in case anyone else would like to share some information or compare notes. I'm willing to receive constructive criticism (with which I may or may not agree). I expect to add more posts on this topic as I get time since every day new information is coming in. As I write this (June 6) Israel is conducting an official investigation but has yet to produce the results.

Note: My interest in writing this blog is not to defend Israel or condemn Arabs. It is to understand the truth of events - something that I have found the media in the past several years to be very incompetent at finding and conveying. If you find anything in this blog that you believe to be incorrect - by all means, please leave a comment explaining your views. I know from past experience the Palestinian version of events is usually not too truthful - although in some cases it is. Because of that I need to be especially careful so that my past experience does not bias my judgment. I invite you to test me on that and criticize any of my posts if you have a valid criticism and some evidence to back it up.

The Setting

The events are focused in Beitunia - a Palestinian  town of about 20,000 just to the SW of and bordering Ramallah, the much larger de facto capital of the PA government on the WB. Beitunia's southern edge is effectively the security fence (sometimes called the "apartheid wall") that separates Israel area C to the south from Palestinian areas here. There is a border crossing at the security fence where Israel's highway 436 passes through. Israel's Ofer Prison sits just on the Israeli side of the border here for a km or so, stretched out along the east side of highway 436. These can all be seen in the Google map below which I have set for Earth View:

Map 1, Beitunia, 12 km North of Jerusalem (A Link to Live Google Map)

Driving north on Hwy 436 into the Palestinian controlled area - right after passing the checkpoint, on the right you'll see a large parking lot that Israeli forces apparently use as a staging area and command center during the somewhat regularly occurring demonstrations in Beitunia. As you proceed further up the road you pass some houses built on the steep hillside to the left. A couple of hundred meters from the parking lot you come to an intersection. The road to the left (to the SW) leads up to the multi-story apartment buildings and posh residences on the hill. Most of the events to be discussed will take place on this map.

Map 2, Areas of Interest (screengrab)

The events we are most concerned with occur near and around the intersection shown above. The building and shop on the NW corner provide a place where demonstrators can gain some protection from the Israeli rubber bullets usually fired from the south. The demonstrators then run out and fire some rocks from their slings at the Israeli forces along the highway and can then duck back behind the building for cover. There seem to be major demonstrations here a couple of times a year or more.

Below, is an enlarged view of that area around the intersection. Unfortunately, this Google Map is the highest resolution image I can find. Please contact me if you know of a better one. Thanks.

Map 3, Where the Alleged Killings Occurred (screengrab)

Trivia: The three lines I've added to the map above are all approximate because of the poor Earth Map resolution and inherent distortion. I will use other methods in this series of posts to more firmly establish important locations as needed. Still, I believe these lines do show the general layout pretty well.  Google Earth Distortion

From the intersection, the six bay house with the attached shed appears as shown below.  The two story structure has six garage bay doors facing NE to the main road (highway 436) street, each tall enough to house a decent sized truck. A shed addition with a sliding door facing SE to the side street has been attached to the SE facing side of the building. It appears with a blue roof in the map above.

Photo 1, The Six Bay House and Shop

The Killing of Nadeem Nawarah

Of the two alleged murders that day, that of Nadeem Nawarah was the first. 
A CNN news crew captured footage that they described as video proof that an Israeli Border Police unit (Magav) had shot and killed two teenage demonstrators in cold blood - that the boys had presented no threat to them at the time. They claimed that their news camera was rolling and had caught the Israeli forces in the act, as the lethal bullets were fired. The location was on the driveway and street in front of the six bay building and shop described above.

For the purpose of this post I'd like to pin down whether Nadeem Nuwarah was shot at from the veranda as CNN claims - and if so, by what kind of projectile. I will address other allegations and inconsistencies in the news media and Palestinian accounts of these events in future posts, as I get time.

Although the CNN news crew made many mistakes in their description of what their cameras had recorded that day surrounding the Nadeem shooting, I doubt they were wrong about who the Israeli soldiers were shooting at. Based on the edited footage they broadcast, the CNN crew had a decent view through their high quality telephoto zoom lenses. They could see the details of both the shooters on the veranda and their targets on the street and parking apron in front of the 6 bay house. I should add that they chose a position for their camera whereby foliage obscured some of the details of both the riflemen behind the short wall on the veranda as well as some areas in front of the six bay building. But I believe the CNN footage, along with other video and still photo evidence I will show you, can be used to firmly establish that Nadeem Nawarah was easily within their sights when the CNN footage recorded the first shot sound at about 1:30 in the afternoon, local time - the time when Nadeem appeared to fall from a shot from the veranda.

To put this question to rest, I believe this screen grab from the CNN footage clearly shows that both Nadeem and Muhammad (the second victim, supposedly shot about 1.5 hrs later) were visible through the rifle sights of the Israeli riflemen on the veranda. 

At this moment in the footage (2:36) Watson has just said, "As for the boys, the first one was shot and mortally wounded, right here". 

This screen grab from the CNN footage shows the supposed shot (maroon) from the soldier CNN identified as Nadeem's killer. As I will show however, the actual shooter was about 4.5 meters to his right (our left looking up to the veranda). So the actual area that the real shooter could hit (the area to the reader's left of the yellow dashed line) is even further to the right than shown, and well within the clear fire zone for where Nadeem was when he was hit. 

Also be aware that Ivan Watson is pointing to the wrong spot. Nadeem actually fell closer to the C in the CNN logo at bottom right. I'll explain this in detail later. (Note that the vehicle shown above was not there at the the time of ether shooting. Watson seems to have done this stand-up later in the day after the demonstration had subsided.)

The Veranda

I use this term to describe the paved area that the Magav team used to observe and sometimes shoot at the Palestinian demonstrators in front and on the side of the Six Bay House. You can see that the team are actually standing on a sloping ramp leading down to the highway. Of the people visible here, Magav personnel have black uniforms like the one Real Shooter was wearing. The IDF photographer guys are wearing a light olive drab uniform like the one CNN designated shooter was wearing. I have drawn a thick line to represent the M16 that a Magav team member had leaned on the gate sometime before the first shot was heard in the CNN footage. 

This view seems to have been shot from the roof of the house behind the veranda or possibly from an upstairs room in the house. This view provides a better perspective on the layout and distances between the team members as seen in other views from different viewing angles. 

This is just my best guess for the distances between the two shooters and the gate. Let me know if you think I'm off by much.

The CNN "Smoking Gun" Footage

A CNN News crew arrived sometime before 1:30 that afternoon and set up their gear on the far side of the highway - about 50 meters or so south (to the right) of the edge of the image above.This post is about what happened in that CNN Smoking Gun footage. If you'd like to follow along with the minute details that reveal what the great majority of people who have been following news reports of the killings do not know about what happened that day - then open this link below in a new tab. Drag the progress button to 1:52 and click the speed you want (1 means normal speed).

CNN Smoking Gun footage

The whole 4 minutes and 6 seconds is valuable for understanding the alleged shooting of Nadeem and the media role in it. But the critical few seconds start at 1:52 and end 22 seconds later at 1:74. These are the 22 critical seconds during which four separate shots can be clearly heard that appear to come from the veranda shown in the clip. Despite what CNN says, none of the four shots recorded can be seen clearly enough to be conclusively attributed to any particular one of the riflemen shown - at least not without a careful, frame by frame analysis of the data. That's what CNN (and the rest of the media) failed to do - and it's what we'll be doing in this blog series if you wish to follow along and contribute with your comments. 

CNN identifies the shooter as the one who's rifle clearly sticks out over the veranda wall. All other news reports I have seen agree with that description. Before getting into the more technical evidence against this claim, there are two problems easily visible in this screen grab that corresponds with the sound of the first shot on the CNN video at 1:53:

  1. At the moment of the shot the CNN identified shooter's head is erect. His aiming eye is several cm above the axis of the scope that's attached to his rifle. Notice that you can just make out his chin strap and his cheek or nose to the right of it. I guess it's possible he could have just fired in the general direction of the rioters in the street below, not really aiming. But if he was planning to shoot at Nadeem, especially if it was a 5.56 mm NATO round that could easily hit a target within a one inch circle at that distance (80 meters) - and especially if he was intending to kill someone - I'd expect this photo would show him aiming carefully through the sights. In fact, he'd have to use the scope to even have a chance to hit Nadeem with a rubber cylinder. In my opinion he's not aiming at anything here.
  2. Taking in the three dimensional perspective from this camera angle and the fact that the camera is not level on the tripod which tilts the whole image down and to the right, it seems pretty clear that his rifle is actually pointed at or above the horizon. Yet the veranda is elevated at least a dozen meters or more above the street where Nadeem fell - at a horizontal range of about 80 meters. A NATO round shot from an M16 has a muzzle velocity  of about 1000 meters per seond which gives it a virtually flat trajectory at that range. To hit someone on the street below would require the rifle to be aimed with a noticeable down angle of the rifle barrel. 
Simply based on this static image taken at the exact moment of the shot, I don't believe that the CNN designated shooter could possibly have fired a shot at that moment, no matter what kind of ammo was in the chamber. Instead, the CNN shooter is simply resting his rifle on the veranda wall and surveying the action in the street below - looking over his scope. 

So then, who was the shooter? Compare this frame grab of the third rifleman from the left (the first rifleman is past the left edge of the photo) with the CNN shooter photo above. Like the previous frame grab it is the frame timed to the sound of the shot on the footage.

Unfortunately, we can't see this rifleman's barrel (let's call him Real Shooter) because a tree in the foreground is blocking the view. But we can see a possible scope shape in the black area in front of his eyes. Also notice that third man's eyes are lined up with the axis of the possible scope - where they would have to be if he was aiming at something. They are not several cm above the scope like the CNN Shooter at right.

It's important to realize that the narrow angle of the CNN camera to the wall and its telephoto zoom makes the riflemen on the deck appear to be right next to each other. Actually, looking more straight on at the veranda wall from the area where Nadeem fell, you can see that the positions of the two riflemen of interest were actually about four to five meters apart. Note that the screen grab below was taken from a clip recorded the next day by a Palestinian videographer, on the sixteenth.

The third rifleman from left in this photo is eerily standing almost in the same spot that Real Shooter from the CNN footage was kneeling. There was no-one in the CNN shooter position when the video that provided this screen grab was recorded. However, we know CNN Shooter was in this position at the moment of the shot at Nuwarah the day before though, because in the screen grab from the CNN Smoking Gun footage recorded the day before (above) - his right hand which seems to be grasping the M16 magazine - was resting right at the tip of the rightmost arrow - where the wall takes its first step down going south from the tallest wall segment. 

Just from these three static images then, all screen grabs from video footage available to anyone with an Internet connection, it appears that CNN is likely wrong about the identity of the shooter. We also now have a possible candidate from the CNN footage that could have been the source of the first shot in the CNN Smoking Gun footage, the one timed with Nadeem's fall. That's because the third rifleman from the left was possibly aiming a rifle at something in Nadeem's direction at the time of the shot

But is he Real Shooter To go from possible to pretty certain we need to carefully watch the video footage of the 20 seconds of this event at slower frame rates, even frame by frame. Right now we can't even say that he has a rifle in his hands. You can can easily do this for yourself.

  1. Copy this URL to your clipboard:
  2. Open a new browser tab and open the URL:  in the window.
  3. Paste the URL in your clipboard into the RowVid box that says: ENTER VIDEO URL OR ID 
  4. Click WATCH VIDEO
  5. Drag the button to 1:52 in the clip and click the right arrow to run it.

You can now run single frame forward and back and you can run at various speeds. I suggest you start by running through from before the first shot until after the second shot is heard. You should do this several times and at different speeds including frame by frame. I bet you'll see some interesting things. 

In my next post I'll lay out the evidence that Nadeem's shooter was indeed Real Shooter as I have named him - the third rifleman from the left. And I'll prove that the first shot heard in the CNN footage (the Nadeem shot) was a rubber cylinder. It's all in the footage. See what you come up with.