One more word on Human Rights Watch
And, finally, in reference to Professor Heller’s piece, a little math: According to the HRW figures, at least 23 were killed in the July 13-19 Israeli attacks. According to the NYT story, on August 16, there were 43 total dead of which at list 22 (“most”) were Hezbollah/Amal fighters. 43 less 23 is 20, which means that at least 2 of the dead from the July 13-19 attacks were Hezbollah/Amal.
Professor Heller also mismatches the NYT story and the evidence. The stories clearly show that Hezbollah fighters were present in Srifa at least several weeks before the additional Hezbollah fighters moved into Srifa “just days before” August 16. Additionally, as Professor Heller acknowledges, the AFP story describes a Hezbollah commander responsible for Srifa on August 4; if all the Hezbollah fighters arrived later, just exactly whom was he commanding?
ADDENDUM/CORRECTION (added August 29): In rereading the HRW report, I see that I erred. In fact, the HRW report may have claimed 30 or more dead civilians in the July 13/19 attacks. I say “may” because in one place the report claims 19 dead civilians in the July 19 attack, and in another, the report claims 26 (and then 26 up to 42) dead civilians in the July 19 attack.
I set to the side, for the moment, the skills of Sarah Leah Whitson, who edited the report, and failed to notice that the HRW investigators couldn’t even decide how many civilians they were going to claim were slaughtered by Israel.
If HRW is serious about the figure of 26 dead on July 19, we have to ask whether it is credible for HRW and Professor Heller to claim that Israeli strikes before July 20 were aimed only at civilians and killed 30 civilians, and that this is still consistent with a NYT report that on August 16 the total dead in Srifa was 43, of which at least 22 were Hezbollah/Amal fighters (meaning, at most 21 dead civilians). Even if the lower total is the one to which HRW and Professor Heller now want to adhere, the question remains whether HRW and Professor Heller can credibly claim that the HRW report’s claim of 23 known dead civilians by July 19 is consistent with a NYT claim of a maximum of 21 dead civilians known by August 16.
I think we also have to ask whether HRW and Professor Heller can credibly maintain that an article that includes diary entries by a Hezbollah fighter on July 12, July 18 and August 9 gives no reason to suspect the presence of Hezbollah fighters during July 13 and July 19. Or that the AP story of July 19 mentioned in my original article describing Hezbollah fighters in Srifa “rush[ing] for cover whenever Israeli warplanes or pilotless aircraft appeared overhead” provides no indication of Hezbollah presence during July 13 and July 19. Or that the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Srifa throughout August (in the weeks before the arrival of reinforcements “just before” August 16 as reported by the NYT) provides no indication of a consistent Hezbollah presence.
Finally, I should note that contrary to the insinuations of Sarah Leah Whitson and the claims of Professor Heller, HRW’s claims about the absence of Hezbollah fighters were not limited to July 13 and July 19. For instance, page 28 of the report states that “[t]wo Human Rights Watch researchers visited Srifa briefly on July 31…. The researchers saw no signs of Hezbollah military activity in the village…”