NEW DELHI, Dec 2: A private rescue group from Israel has claimed that Indian commandos inadvertently killed some of the hostages in the terror attacks in Mumbai, and the claim has evidently embarrassed both governments, news reports said on Tuesday.
“Based on what I saw, (although) I can’t identify the type of bullets in the bodies (of the victims), I don’t think the terrorists killed all the hostages, to put it gently,” Mr Haim Weingarten, head of the six-member team of Zaka voluntary organisation dealing with rescue and recovery, told The Jerusalem Post.
Press Trust of India said from Jerusalem that the claim had embarrassed the Israeli government, which is worried about its fallout on ties with the Indian government.
According to PTI, Mr Weingarten told the Post from Mumbai that all the six Jewish and Israeli hostages found dead in the Chabad House were killed by either gunshot wounds or shrapnel from grenade blasts, or both, and that he didn’t know who threw or fired the grenades that wounded the hostages.
Although lacking forensic tools to determine the time of death, Mr Weingarten was quoted as saying that his team’s observations led him to believe that “some of the hostages were killed on Wednesday (when gunmen first entered the building), some on Thursday, and some on Friday morning (during the start of the commando raid)”.
Zaka officials believe that in a final act of love, the director of the Chabad House, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, wrapped the body of his wife Rivka in a tallit (prayer shawl) before succumbing to his own wounds during the final hours of the siege, it said.
The volunteers on the scene found the bodies of Israeli grandmother Yocheved Orpaz (62) and Jewish Mexican national Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich (50) bound to one another with a phone cord.
Meanwhile, the Indian foreign ministry held a briefing “to convey the deepest condolences of the Government of India to those countries whose nationals were killed in the terrorist attack in Mumbai.” Heads of mission from these countries were present in the briefing. “They were also informed of details of the terrorist attack and the investigation so far,” the ministry said.
Possibly following the briefing, the Israeli government slammed the Zaka group for alleging that Indian commandos might have inadvertently killed one or more Jewish hostages during the Nariman House operation, saying the “irresponsible” comments could cause considerable damage to bilateral ties.
“They are causing all kinds of problems,” a senior Israeli foreign ministry official said about the six-member team of the Zaka voluntary group that flew on Thursday “on its own volition” to Mumbai for a rescue operation after the deadly terror strikes.
“They are selling all kinds of stories to journalists looking for stories, and taking credit for things they didn’t do,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. It remains a mystery why India has allowed a clearly unauthorised group from Israel to carry out its self-styled rescue at the site of a mind-boggling crime. Usually such sensitive sites are sealed off to visitors till official investigations are underway.