Tragedy and regret
On Monday morning, as they sat down to breakfast in their Gaza home, Miyasar Abu Meatak and her four children — Salah, four, Musad, 18 months, Hanaa, three, and Rudeynah, six — died in a massive explosion. The dust had barely settled on this nightmarish scene before claims and counterclaims began flying over just who was responsible. The IDF at first insisted that the family was killed when explosives carried by wanted men detonated after they were struck by an Israeli missile. The Palestinians claimed that Israeli troops had fired a tank shell which hit the family’s building. In the midst of urban, asymmetrical warfare, the precise sequence of events is not always immediately clear. So what should Israel do at a time like this — admit responsibility, deny involvement, express “regret”? An initial Israeli promise to show journalists footage to back up its version of events was quickly retracted after the IDF admitted this evidence was inconclusive. It seems almost distasteful to mention hasbarah in this context. Yet it took 24 hours for a measured, human response to emerge from the Israeli side and for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to say, quite simply, that Israel felt deep remorse for the tragic incident, that the exact circumstances were still unclear, and that the IDF would carry out an investigation and publicise its findings. From the Israeli perspective, this incident only lasted for one domestic news cycle, and privately is not being seen as an international debacle. The truth of the events of Monday morning has yet to emerge. But what is in no doubt is that this event was a tragedy. And if spectators to this conflict have reached the point where the death of four children and their mother in one single, brutal moment no longer moves them, then that is another.