Targeting Toddlers

The War on Non-Combatants

JAFFA—Lately it has become ever so politically correct to describe Israel as a land of brutal murderers. The ayatollahs of political correctness feed you numbers to back it up—1500 Palestinians but only 500 Israelis killed in the last 20 months, they snigger.

It's time we took a closer look at those casualty figures. The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) is doing just that. ICT, at the prestigious Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, is a think tank developing public-policy solutions to international terrorism.

"According to data from Palestinian sources, 55 percent of the Palestinian dead were combatants," said Don Radlauer, an ex-New Yorker, who is building a casualty database at ICT. "And we rated all kids under 13 as non-combatants, even if they were armed when they were killed."

On the Israeli side, statistics show that only 25 percent of the dead were combatants.

The data on the number of women killed is even more telling. Radlauer said the findings "were not what we were expecting."

"Less than 5 percent of all Palestinian casualties to date were female," he said, "while 30 percent of Israeli casualties were women."

"Among the non-combatants killed, and again relying on Palestinian reports, we found that 7 percent were Palestinian women," he said. "In contrast, 37 percent of the Israeli non-combatant dead were women."

Looking at solid numbers, the Palestinians report a total of 66 women killed as of the end of April. In the same period, 135 Israeli women died, all but three non-combatants.

"But if you only look at non-combatants, excluding female suicide bombers and women killed in bomb factory 'work accidents,' etc., the number drops to 40 Palestinian women killed," Radlauer said.

"Do the math—132 Israeli female civilians compared with 40 Palestinian women," he said. "That's more than three Israeli women killed for every one Palestinian."

"Palestinian data on fatalities do not bear out the claim that Israel is attacking a civilian population in their homes," said Radlauer.

"The Palestinian fatalities are an engineered tragedy," he added. "If I am angry at anything it is that the Palestinian leadership is willing to put so many of their own kids in harm's way just to gain propaganda points."

Suicide bombings are the Palestinians' weapon of choice, and they've staged well over 100 of them since the Intifada began in September 2000. The scene is almost always the same after some pathetic Palestinian kid is cajoled into blowing himself up in the biggest crowd of Israelis he can find.

"The first thing that hits you is the strong smell. It's the smell of burning hair," said Achy Sheffer, 42, a volunteer medic with the First Responder corps, a unit of Magen David Adom, Israel's answer to the Red Cross.

"There's always lots of blood everywhere," he said. "Hands, legs, and arms, and sometimes heads, are scattered on the ground. I try not to see what I don't have to see."

"And there are always nails," Achy said. "One woman I treated had over 40 nails in her legs and arms—you don't see them, they just go inside."

"If the attack was a bad one, it's eerily quiet. Like at the Passover seder massacre in Netanya [where 29 people were killed and 140 were injured]," he said. "It was very bad and it was very quiet. No one was screaming."

Often the silence is broken by the ringing of the victims' mobile phones scattered on the ground. Desperate parents trying to find their kids, or kids trying to find their parents.

"The worst for me was the Dolphinarium," said Achy, who responds to an average of 43 emergencies each month. "I arrived on the scene early. The first thing I saw was a pile of dead, pretty teenage girls—10 to 12 bodies, literally packed one on top of the other."

The massacre at the discotheque in the seaside Dolphinarium happened just a year ago. Twenty-one young people, mostly teenage girls, were killed and another 83 injured. There's a little memorial on the site; it is always covered with fresh flowers.

"One girl I cannot forget lost an eye. She had fractured legs and one arm was crushed," said Achy. "I don't know if they saved her arm, because it was very bad. The explosion threw her about 60 feet."

"I didn't sleep for two weeks after the Dolphinarium," he said. "I just sat at home writing poems and crying."

Shiran Cohen is only 11 years old but she already knows how to spot a suicide bomber.

Shiran was at a shopping mall in Petach Tikvah, seven miles east of Tel Aviv, when the latest suicide bomber detonated a device that spewed nails and bolts across a veranda filled with toddlers in their strollers. It was carnage.

"I saw him drive his motorbike between the tables," Shiran said from her hospital bed. "I just knew what he was and I told Mama to look. She didn't understand and started scolding him for driving on the pedestrian mall. Then he exploded. It happened so fast."

Shiran is among the 50 injured. In a room nearby, a two-year-old with serious head wounds is fighting for her life. The baby's mother coos at her to move her fingers and the tiny little hands tremble.

So far, there are two dead, including 18-month-old Sinai Kenaan, who was sitting in her stroller at the terrorist's well-chosen target—an ice cream parlor. Ice cream parlor? How low can you go? Supermarkets, cafés, pool halls, and hotel dining rooms give suicide bombers a wide array of ages to maim and kill. But an ice cream parlor on a warm evening is sure to be packed with little kids.

Personally, I hate terrorists, particularly the ones who target toddlers. But then, I'm a New Yorker and I've always prided myself on being politically incorrect.

Shiran's father, Samir, is doing a lot of hospital hopping. His wife, Dalia, is in a different hospital with wounds to her face and total hearing loss. "She can't close her mouth and just cries and cries," said Samir, a taxi driver. "She keeps talking about seeing a baby's skull come off and her brains pouring out."

Shiran's older sister Berta is in yet another hospital. The blast sent her flying and she smashed to the ground on her stomach. "She is eight months pregnant," said Samir. "The doctors aren't sure about the baby—they can't find a heartbeat."

"And people talk about an overuse of force by Israel," scoffed Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Rafowicz, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. "When you attach 15 kilos of explosives to a man with a brain it becomes an extraordinarily lethal weapon, much more lethal that anything we use. That man can wait around for 20 to 30 minutes just to choose the right moment to kill as many people as possible."

"Suicide bombing is perceived as the weapon of the weak, but it is the most lethal weapon in the conflict," he said.

"Suicide bombings should be classified as 'nonconventional warfare.' "

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