On the afternoon of July 28th, at around 17:00 local time, explosions took place near Shifa hospital and in the Shati area of Gaza City and around half an hour later, it was reported that ten people had been killed, including children. Along with Hamas spokesmen, many members of the international media in Gaza immediately jumped to – and promoted – the conclusion that the explosions were the result of Israeli airstrikes.
Just after 18:00 the IDF stated that it had not been operating in the area at the time and confirmed that both explosions were in fact missiles misfired by terrorists. Not long afterwards, an aerial photograph was made public showing the trajectory paths of four missiles launched simultaneously by terrorists from inside the Gaza Strip, as recorded by IDF radars and sensors. One of those missiles exploded near Shifa hospital, another exploded in the Shati area, a third landed at sea and the fourth was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system over Ashkelon.
Three reports which appeared on the BBC News website, however, all failed to tell audiences what really happened, electing instead to present them with a ‘he said/she said’ version of events.
A report dated July 28th and titled “Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” states:
“Shortly after he [Ban Ki-moon] spoke, there were reports of two explosions in Gaza City – one in a children’s playground and one near Gaza’s main hospital. [...]
Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.
But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”
Another report titled “Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” – now dated July 29th but which originally appeared on July 28th – states:
“Explosions in Gaza City reportedly killed 10 people, including children. […]
At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.
Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”
A third article dated July 29th and titled “Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” states:
“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”
In other words, the BBC would have audiences believe that it cannot possibly tell them which is more reliable: the evidence provided by a sophisticated system of radars and trackers which are part of a technologically advanced early warning system, or the unverified word of ‘health officials’ belonging to a terrorist organization which, if it did not fire the specific missiles itself, is collaborating with the terrorist organization that did.
Notably, the BBC’s journalists on the ground apparently had no inclination to carry out their own investigations into the incident.
On the evening of July 28th, some seven hours after the incident occurred and long after the above aerial photograph had been made public, viewers of BBC television news were nevertheless shown a filmed report by Ian Pannell which was aimed solely at whipping up emotions and did absolutely nothing to inform them of the real circumstances behind the tragic incident.
That report was also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza“.
“It was supposed to be a day of celebration in Gaza. But it ended with the blood of children. They’d been playing in the park, celebrating the Eid holiday. That’s when the rocket landed. At least ten were killed, eight of them children. Dozens more were injured. Ola [phonetic] is just four years old. She was out on the street when a rocket exploded. Her sister Bethaina [phonetic] was with her. ‘I was sitting in front of the house’, she says, ‘a rocket landed and it hit me and my sister’.
A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.
Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”
Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be buried together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.
Today was supposed to be one of a ceasefire. The first day of Eid, the end of Ramadan, a holy festival, a time for celebration and for families to be together. Instead you have families going to the cemetery to bury their children. Gaza’s seen many bloody days. Few have been as painful as this one. The children here have paid heavily. The militants are under pressure but there’s little sign their support is ebbing. Days like this only harden hearts and compromise seems ever more remote.”
Pannell’s tabloid style report does nothing to inform BBC audiences of the real circumstances behind the deaths of those children, with the missiles misfired by terrorists not even getting a mention. If readers wonder why Pannell chose to feed his audiences fact-free emotion rather than providing them with insight into what really happened, then a clue might be found in a Tweet sent by an Italian journalist after he left the Gaza Strip.
“The children here have paid heavily”, says Pannell and indeed they have. But until Western journalists start telling the truth about the way in which terrorists in the Gaza Strip launch missiles from residential areas, schools, hospitals and mosques; endangering the local population and turning them into human shields, then children in both Gaza and Israel will continue to pay a heavy price. Like the rest of the Western media though, Ian Pannell and his team will soon be safely moving on.