Pause for thought in Atufah
GAZA - We were out filming at the scene of some of the recent fighting today, in a place called Atufah, a neighbourhood east of Gaza City where the town meets the surrounding farmers' fields.
Whereas we are used to struggling to reconcile the different versions given by Israelis and Palestinians, today it was an inconsistency within the local narrative that gave me pause for thought.
People in Atufah had a very hard time during January's Israeli incursion. We met many locals and all told us they had fled when Israeli tanks appeared on Tel el Rais, a hill overlooking their homes.
Adil al Jidba's story was particularly harrowing. He had fled to a relative's home three kilometres away, but after they arrived in that supposed place of sanctuary, he told us three of his children had been killed by Israeli shells.
When people say they fled Atufah, I believe them because it must have been a very dangerous place to be. Many of the building showed the scars of Israeli fire. Some were completely destroyed. I examined fragments of ordnance or rounds that hadn't gone off: tanks shells, 120mm mortar rounds, and heavy machine bullets.
I even saw signs of the now notorious white phosphorous smoke rounds. The Israeli army reportedly told its soldiers not to take any chances with their own security, and that appears to have been their approach in Atufah.
The problem I have with the local narrative is this. When we asked whether Palestinian fighters had been shooting at the Israelis from their neighbourhood they all said no. But how could they know that, if they hadn't been there? They had fled.
Some people, like Mr al-Jidba and a few others we spoke to, also asserted the right of "mujahdeen" to confront the Israelis in order to prevent them taking any more Palestinian land. Many overseas, I suspect, would sympathise with the right of the Palestinians to resist that invasion. It's just that from everything we heard today, nobody was resisting from Atufah.
The Israelis maintain of course that they were taking fire from the area we filmed in. How else do you explain the amount of shooting they did at Atufah? The Palestinian answer would be that the shooting was unprovoked, malicious, and illustrates the inhumanity of the Israelis.
My own instinct is that while the Israelis may have used what their ministers readily term disproportionate fire aganst Palestinian fighters, the bullets were not all travelling in one direction.