More of the Times' Middle East moral equivalency - a ludicrious attempt tobalance the terrorism committed by Hamas with the countermeasures undertaken by Israel - was on display Sunday's off-lead story from Jerusalem by former Jerusalem Bureau Chief Steven Erlanger. "A Gaza War Full of Traps And Trickery - Ruthless and Inventive, Tactics Evolve Fast," compared the "lethal tricks" of the terrorist group Hamas, such as booby traps and gun-running, with phone calls made by the Israeli army seeking to trick Gaza residents into providing details about Hamas, as if there was nothing to differentiate the two tactics.
The text box read: "Deception and adaptation, with civilians sandwiched in between." Following the story to the inside pages, the jump headlinecontinued to display false moral equivalency:"Gaza War Is Full of Traps and Trickery By Both Hamas and Israel."
Although Erlanger's story had valuable information about how Hamas is not only hiding among civilians but posing as them, the knee-jerk equivalency still perturbs.
The grinding urban battle unfolding in the densely populated Gaza Strip is a war of new tactics, quick adaptation and lethal tricks.
Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership's war room is a bunker beneath Gaza's largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say.
Unwilling to take Israel's bait and come into the open, Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.
In one apartment building in Zeitoun, in northern Gaza, Hamas set an inventive, deadly trap. According to an Israeli journalist embedded with Israeli troops, the militants placed a mannequin in a hallway off the building's main entrance. They hoped to draw fire from Israeli soldiers who might, through the blur of night vision goggles and split-second decisions, mistake the figure for a fighter. The mannequin was rigged to explode and bring down the building.
But apparently that sort of terrorism is just tit for tat, shown a few paragraphs later:
And the Israelis, too, are resorting to tricks.
Israeli intelligence officers are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans, Gazans say and Israel has confirmed. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood.
Karim Abu Shaban, 21, of Gaza City said he and his neighbors all had gotten such calls. His first caller had an Egyptian accent. "Oh, God help you, God be with you," the caller began.
"It started very supportive," Mr. Shaban said, then the questions started. The next call came in five minutes later. That caller had an Algerian accent and asked if he had reached Gaza. Mr. Shaban said he answered, "No, Tel Aviv," and hung up.