Sreenivasan Jain, India’s NDTV reporter who, along with his cameraman, filmed footage Tuesday of Hamas fighters in Gaza assembling and then launching a rocket aimed at Israel from a residential area, detailed the events that led up to the recording of the incident.
“As the video explains, we woke up on the penultimate day of our Gaza trip around 6 am, and there it was, exactly as you see it on tape: an incongruous blue tent on a tiny, vacant, overgrown patch of land behind a low, abandoned building,” Sreenivasan wrote in a blog post published Thursday.
“There is an important detail about that spot which I mention in our video report which may not have fully registered — this was the exact location from where a rocket was fired five days prior,” he said.
“Panic ensued. The [IDF] sent a warning to two hotels across the road to evacuate; within minutes they were empty. Those in our building slept in a safe room on the ground floor. And so that spot was seared in our memory.”
The launch took place in a dense, urban environment in Gaza with plenty of civilians around, he added.
“So when we saw the tent on the same location with two men (later three) moving in and out, working on something inside which they seemed to be burying into the ground, it wasn’t hard to conclude what this was,” Sreenivasan wrote.
“When they started running wires out of the tent, the final steps before covering the earth with a spade, moving some shrubbery on top and then slinking away, it was even clearer.”
The report on NDTV by Sreenivasan showed a Palestinian rocket crew using the tent as cover to set up a rocket launch, then launching the rocket.
Sreenivasan noted in the report that the Hamas rocket launch took places “meters away from our hotel” and “bang in the middle of what is a residential area full of hotels and apartment buildings.”
He then headed to the spot from where the rocket was fired but was “asked by people not to go to the location, so we’re just pulling back…”
“We had all of it on tape, but wrestled with the dilemma of what to do with it,” Sreenivasan said in his blog post.
“Two considerations weighed on our mind. One, the fear which hobbles the reporting [of] such material: fear of reprisals from Hamas against us and those who worked with us, fear of inviting an Israeli response on the spot (these have been known to miss). Two, we needed to be 100% sure that this was a rocket launch site. So we did nothing, setting off on our assignment for the day, mulling over the material in our possession.”
Sreenivasan said the rockets were fired only moments before a 72-hour ceasefire was expected to take effect.
“We knew then we had to air the story,” he said.
“For us to have filmed how a rocket was assembled next to us, on a site used twice to launch a rocket, endangering the lives of all those around us on two occasions — to not have reported it would have been simply wrong.”
Sreenivasan said that the Indian station decided not to self-censor over fear of a possible reprisal by Hamas, as suppressing such information would put many more lives at risk. He added that the report was not intended to absolve Israel of responsibility for the “appalling toll its offensive has taken on civilian lives” in the Gaza Strip.
The Indian reporter went on to state that claiming Hamas has “no choice” but to fire from residential areas was “factually dubious,” as “one only has to drive down the Salahudin Road from Gaza City in the north to Khan Younis in the south to see that the Gaza strip is not, as is commonly believed a continuous urban agglomeration.”
The French TV station, France 24, also showed a rocket launching pad, located about 100 yards from a United Nations building flying the blue UN flag. A hotel housing journalists covering the Gaza conflict was located about 50 yards from the launching pad, according to correspondent Gallagher Fenwick, reporting from Gaza City.
“This type of setup is at the heart of the debate,” Gallagher reported. “The Israeli army has repeatedly accused the Palestinian militants of shooting from within densely populated civilian areas and that is precisely the type of setup we have here.”