In the last week of July, nearly two weeks into the Israel-Hizbullah war, the international media was filled with reports of an Israeli air attack on two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances - a heinous war crime. The gist of the news was that on the night of July 23, 2006, the ambulances were performing rescue operations when Israeli aircraft attacked them, causing explosions and a fire and injuring everyone inside the vehicles.

Photos of the damaged ambulances were published in many newspapers and websites, and breathless reporters - such as Julian Manyon of ITV News in Britain - bemoaned "Lebanese ambulance men, shocked and bleeding, brought in as casualties to a hospital in Tyre. They were hurt when Israeli aircraft rocketed two ambulance crews..."

One of the more interesting details featured in all the reports was that a missile had struck the exact center of the cross on the roof of one of the ambulances.

Now, however, accumulated evidence shows clearly that the incident never occurred - as has been the case in other media-hyped incidents placing Israel in a negative light.

Much of the evidence to this effect that has been collected thus far can be summarized as follows:

  • Other vehicles hit by Israeli missiles have been completely destroyed, as widely shown in photographs - but the ambulance in question merely has a hole in its pockmarked roof, a disarrayed interior, and broken or missing windows.

  • The hole in the top of the roof, upon closer inspection, is seen to have small screw holes around it at regular intervals - and was probably the location of an emergency light or siren that had been roughly removed.

  • The hole and marks in the roof are surrounded by rust, showing that the damage was weeks or months old.

  • The claim that a man had his leg blown off by the missile is belied by the lack of any blood in the ambulance.

  • The ambulance worker supposedly injured by the missile blast was seen just days later without a scratch.

The most detailed and comprehensive report on the above, including many photos, linked citations from news reports and other sites, and possible alternative explanations of what actually occurred, can be read here.

The editors of the above report conclude that if, in fact, the entire event was purposefully staged,

"the implications are enormous, both for the outcome of the war and for the credibility of the media. Most analysts agree that Israel was pressured into a ceasefire due to international outcry over how it was conducting the battle. The media informed the public that Israel was intentionally targeting civilians; the public insisted that their governments demand that Israel stand down; international pressure was applied, and Israel caved in... Reports that an Israeli missile attack destroyed two ambulances played a role in shaping global opinion, which led to a ceasefire leaving Hezbollah intact.

"But if the entire incident turns out to have been an elaborate but clumsy hoax, where does that leave the reputation of the media? Not a single reporter or editor doubted the story for a second. Or if they did, they certainly didn't inform readers of their doubts. Why did the media swallow the story hook, line and sinker? In their zeal to bash Israel, did they allow themselves, consciously or unconsciously, to be duped by Hezbollah supporters into broadcasting propaganda as news? Or is the media so eager to jump on any fresh scandal that they simply switch off their critical thinking and become absolutely credulous of any juicy tale thrown their way?

"It took the blogs and non-professional independent researchers to shine the harsh light of forensic analysis on this case, in the process debunking just about every aspect of the allegations. And this was done merely with the meager scraps of evidence left over by the 'professional' journalists, and by squeezing the maximum amount of information out of the subtlest of clues. But if the journalists who were right there on the scene had even the slightest interest in actually investigating the story, they had access to all sorts of information that could have blown the lid off the case. How hard would it have been to go back to the Red Cross office after a few days to inspect the ambulance carefully in person? To look at the hole in the roof, to photograph the rust up close, to search for burn marks or blood on the gurneys, to notice the driver's healthy chin? Wouldn't that have been a scandal worth reporting?

"Is the media that gullible -- or does it have a political bias? Either way, its credibility has now been lost."

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