Your pensive and hesitant Pedant-General is always loathe to put his cards on the table, to stand up and be counted or generally to favour one side of the fence from any other that may be available.
He is therefore wringing his hands in response to the awful reports of "apparent" missile attack on an ambulance clearly marked with the Red Cross.
At the Red Cross headquarters in Tyre, I spoke to Kassem Chaalan, 28, who told me about being in an ambulance that was struck by a missile. When the armament struck the vehicle, he says, it hit the Red Cross symbol on the roof dead-on.Rather than make any sort of precipitate decision, I have therefore dissembled and thought about it and make all sorts of noises of the "hum" and "ha" variety.
Amongst the many other thoughts that crossed my mind is this:
Missile strikes are pretty conclusive events. In fact, at a conservative estimate and assuming that our helicopter-launched missile has mass of 10kg (which is on the low side) and was travelling at, say, 500 mph (which is ~250m/s and also on the low side), the missile would have had kinetic energy of around 600kJ. This is transferred to the target when it strikes, in a fairly direct and unprepossessing manner.
As a quick quiz, how fast would a car weighing 1 tonne (that's a small/medium UK sized car such as Ford Focus with just the driver in it) have to be going to have 600kJ in kinetic energy?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Ok, I'll tell you. About 50 mph. So even before the warhead detonates, being hit by a missile of that size and at that speed has the same crushing effect on the target as being hit by a car full on at 50mph, except from above, where you don't have all the crumble zones to absorb the impact.
Let's look at a few examples. For each of these photos, you can click to be linked to the source news report.
There are a couple of things to notice about this.
Firstly the car is a mess. To say that it is no longer roadworthy would be somewhat sidestepping the extent of the damage. It looks very much as though a car of similar size struck it from above at about 50mph.
Secondly, the subsequent explosion has peeled the roof open, blown the boot lid open and thirdly we can see that the remainder is severely scorched with fire.
That seems to make sense to me.
What about this one:
Notice the fire damage, the blown out tyres, and the crushing impact from above. The floorpan is on the ground and the doors and roof are buckled. This car is not going anywhere. Ever again. Or at least, not of its own accord.
Again, notice that the vehicle is a complete right-off. The roof has been ripped off by the explosion and there is extensive fire damage.
And what about this?
I don't know about you, humble reader, but I am beginning to spot a pattern. Missile strikes appear to correlate strongly with:
- Crushing and general structural damage apparently from above
- Other buckling and twisting or miscellaneous mechanical effects of explosions such as doors and boot lids open and bent and the roof ripped back up.
- Fire Damage.
So, to our ambulance "apparently deliberately" targetted.
Here it is:
That link again in case you missed it:
Now, I'm looking at a photo of an ambulance that has:
- no crushing impact from above;
- the doors are open, but they are clearly not buckled. They are on their hinges and have not been ripped out when shut. There is no other buckling or twisting commensurate with an explosion;
- no fire damage.
Can you imagine the field day that Hezbollah (and the BBC for that matter) would have if there really had been an ambulance hit by a missile. The image of a battered, burned out vehicle with a sorry bent scrag of metal showing the remaining traces of a Red Cross? Yet this is the only image I can find.
Why would that be? Who on earth could possibly gain from fraudulently reporting, or indeed entirely fabricating, a story about a direct hit on an ambulance? It couldn't happen. I mean obviously.