July 25, 2002
ISRAELI Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon's initial reaction to Israel's bombing raid on Gaza City
-- "one of our major successes" -- was extremely disturbing.
While it killed
its primary target, Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, founder of the paramilitary
wing of Hamas, it also left 14 civilians dead and 150 wounded. The enduring
image of this military mission will be the scene of a man holding the
body of a 2-month-old girl, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, followed
by a long procession of mourners.
Surely Israel has
the intelligence capabilities, precision weaponry and well-trained forces
to have come up with a way to target a terrorist leader with less collateral
damage. To use an American-made F-16 fighter jet to drop a laser-guided
bomb on a residential area in the middle of the night is to court disaster.
And disaster resulted.
Even President Bush,
who had been giving Israel wide latitude to defend itself, described
the attack as "heavy handed." The condemnation from Europe was decidedly
more blunt. Sweden called it a crime against international law and "morally
unworthy of a democracy like Israel."
The tone from the
Israeli government, while short of apologetic, at least showed signs
of contrition Wednesday. "What happened is really regrettable. It wasn't
done intentionally," Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said. "I think all
of us feel sorry for the loss of life of innocent people, particularly
children." Peres said Israeli troops would proceed with a pullback from
the West Bank and that the government had released millions of dollars
in frozen Palestinian taxes and issued 4,000 work permits.
insist that they used the right weapon, but with the wrong calculations.
But Israel's biggest miscalculation was that a 1-ton bomb could ever
be the weapon of choice when targeting one man in an apartment building
or that the world
would look the other way at needless loss of life.
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.