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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
Israelis reassess Gaza attack
Hooded Hamas members at funerals
Hamas was reportedly ready to end suicide bombings

First off, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called it a great success.

At last Israel's most wanted man could be crossed off the list for good.

But now the mood here has changed.

Triumphalism has gone, replaced by a series of simple questions:

  • Did Israeli leaders know they were going to bomb a crowded civilian area?
  • If yes, then why did they go ahead with the attack?
  • If no, then why did their intelligence fail them?

Either way, many feel it does not look good, including Yossi Sarid, leader of the left-wing opposition Meretz party.

Regrets but no apologies

"If you send an F-16 to a very heavily crowded city with a one-ton bomb you have to estimate from the very beginning that innocent people will be killed. So it was a very, very grave mistake of the Israeli Government," he said.


I don't take it lightly, but war causes mistakes and the greatest mistake is the war itself

Shimon Peres
Government officials have been trying to explain what happened.

They have been offering regrets, but no apologies.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres acknowledged that with the benefit of hindsight, it was wrong to bomb Salah Shahada in such a crowded area.

"But when it [the area] was targeted we didn't have the slightest idea about it. What happened now is a tragedy and we regret it very, very much.

"I don't take it lightly, but war causes mistakes and the greatest mistake is the war itself," he said.

Conspiracy theory

Right now, there are plenty of attempts among officials to duck and to pass the blame.

Sharon knew about it, they knew the declaration would be issued by the Palestinians, they carried on this crime

Knesset member Ahmed Tibi

Among Palestinians there is plenty of talk of war crimes and conspiracies.

Ahmed Tibi - an Arab Israeli member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset - is one of those who believe Ariel Sharon ordered the attack to sabotage a possible ceasefire about to be declared by Palestinian militant groups.

"It came in order to dismantle and vanish all serious Palestinian efforts in the last days which were aimed to stop Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians.

Left-wingers demonstrate at the Israeli Defence Ministry
The mood of triumphalism has disappeared
"Sharon knew about it, they knew the declaration would be issued by the Palestinians, they carried on this crime," Mr Tibi said.

Israel denies this strongly, and it is having to fight many battles at the moment.

It has always insisted that - unlike Palestinian extremists - it does not deliberately or knowingly target innocent civilians in this conflict.

But following the strike on Gaza, many in the world may have their doubts.


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24 Jul 02 | Middle East
23 Jul 02 | Middle East
23 Jul 02 | Middle East
23 Jul 02 | Middle East
22 Jul 02 | Middle East
03 Dec 01 | profiles
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