The Incredible Re-Burning Car of Rafah

The Israeli military was busy Tuesday evening in the Rafha refugee camp in Gaza, striking two separate vehicles driven by Hamas activists, according to the Beeb:

Three Hamas militants have been killed in two Israeli air strikes on cars in Rafah, southern Gaza, Palestinian officials said.

The first attack killed an activist from Hamas' military wing and hurt his companion. Dozens of bystanders were also hurt, Palestinian doctors said.

Two Hamas militants were killed in a second strike on a car in Rafah.

Israeli forces have been carrying out raids and air strikes on Gaza after the capture of an Israeli soldier in June.

Hundreds of Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli action.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the first of the two strikes on Tuesday targeted militants who were planning an attack on Israel.

"After the aerial attack, there were a number of explosions, proving that the vehicle was carrying explosives," the spokeswoman said.

Photographers from the Associated Press and Reuters were quick to converge upon the two cars, as captured in Yahoo's "Gaza" photostream.

AP's Khalil Hamra captured two photos of the vehicle I've dubbed "Car 1," a white vehicle absent all easily identifiable signs of its doors, roof, and even roof pillars.


The exposed steering wheel and beveled hood, which is apparent in the second photo, are also useful identifiers, as are the rather plain wheels. It is also perhaps worth noting the surroundings of the photo, which shows an audience of many men in paramilitary attire identified as Hamas-led Palestinian Authority's security forces, in a very well-lit and back-lit area.

The second vehicle hit in Israeli air strikes I've dubbed "Car 2," but you may wish to refer to it as the "Incredible Re-Burning Car," or "IRC" for short, for reasons that will shortly become apparent.

Reuters photographer Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, provides us with this photo and caption:

Palestinians help with rescue work on a car as water is sprayed to douse flames following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip September 5, 2006. Israeli airstrikes killed four Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday, the Israeli military and witnesses said, ratcheting up violence in the coastal strip further.

Please note that the vehicle fire appears to have been doused at this point. Also note that the door pillar extending over the passenger compartment is somewhat intact, as it a battered driver's side door, the roof-supporting column behind the driver's door, and the rear door on the driver's side, which has blown (or perhaps, looking the two sets of hands on it, pushed) upward and inward.

Also please note the five-spoke wheel, the deformed hood, and the dark mark on the left front quarterpanel, which I estimate to be perhaps 3-4 inches from the back of the panel, and roughly eight inches down from the top of the panel. It is worth noting that the crowd make-up in this photo is exclusively civilian in nature, and that the only readily apparent source of light is from the camera's flash, if for no other reason than to firmly establish that the first two photos are a distinctly separate even than the second pair of photos.

And now, a miraculous AP photo and caption of the exact same vehicle... well, not quite.

Palestinians gather around the burning wreckage of a car destroyed in an apparent Israeli airstrike in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006.Three Palestinians were killed and 12 wounded late Tuesday in explosions, at least one of them the result of an Israeli airstrike, Palestinians and the Israeli military said.

Suddenly this car, still readily identifiable by its five-spoke wheel, deformed hood and dark quarterpanel mark, has burst into flame, after the door pillar extending over the passenger compartment, the battered driver's side door, the roof-supporting column behind the driver's door, and the rear door on the driver's side have all been removed or pulled down.

Perhaps there are other alternative explanations, but it appears to my eye that parts of the vehicle were pulled out of the way and the car reignited between the time the Reuters photographer took the first picture of this vehicle and the unnamed AP photographer took the far more dramatic second photo. Either that, or the order of the photos are reversed, and these fine resident mechanics and body shop fabricators of Gaza were already well on the way towards reconstructing the car before it was even removed from the scene.

I'll let you decide which scenario is more likely. For what it's worth, I don't think, nor am I trying to imply, that the media was complicit in what appears to have transpired.

Cross-posted at Confederate Yankee.