Missile attacks on Ashkelon – BBC leads with Israeli response

Shortly before 2 a.m. on the morning of January 16th residents of the Ashkelon area in southern Israel were woken by the sound of the ‘colour red’ air raid siren warning them to take cover due to incoming missiles from the Gaza Strip.

Five missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system (see a video here), with additional falls thought to have occurred in open areas. Following those attacks, the IDF responded by targeting terror sites in the Gaza Strip.

“Earlier tonight, rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Five rockets were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome active missile defense system. In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a terror site, an underground rocket-launcher, a weapon storage facility and a weapons manufacturing site, all located in the northern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed.

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page later on the morning of January 16th found the headline “‘Five hurt’ in Israel-Gaza air raids”, with the link leading to a report with the similar title of “‘Five hurt’ in Israel-Gaza Strip air raids“.

five hurt art on hp

five hurt art 16 1

Underneath a photograph captioned “Israel launched at least two air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Monday”, this latest example of ‘last-first’ reporting opens:

“Five people including four children have been injured in a series of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medics have told the BBC.”

Once again, there is no evidence of the BBC having independently confirmed that information before reporting it.

In the report’s second and third paragraphs readers are informed that:

“The raids took place on Thursday shortly after militants fired five rockets towards Ashkelon in southern Israel, the military said.

An army spokesman said the missiles were intercepted.”

In other words, the BBC informs audiences of unverified consequences of Israel’s response to terrorist missile attacks before it – briefly – tells them about the attacks themselves.

The report then goes on to devote three paragraphs (from a total of eleven) to locally sourced accounts of sites targeted, notably avoiding even the BBC’s usual euphemistic ‘militant’ terminology when mentioning Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades. 

“In Gaza, witnesses said planes attacked five different sites and explosions could be heard across the Strip.

At least one missile hit a training facility for Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist movement, Hamas, which governs Gaza.

Another raid was reported to have targeted a rocket launcher cell in an agricultural farm east of Gaza City.”

The article ends by once again misleading audiences as to the reasons for the designation of the Gaza Strip as “hostile territory”.

“It [Israel] considers Gaza a “hostile territory” after it was taken over by the Islamist Hamas movement in 2007.”

As has been noted here on several previous occasions, that September 2007 designation came about not – as the BBC repeatedly claims – as a result of the Hamas take-over of the Strip in June 2007, but because of the subsequent escalation in terrorism emanating from that territory. 

This report also states:

“On Monday, the Israel Air Force struck two targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel earlier in the day.”

Brief mention of those missile attacks on January 13th was also to be found in an article of that date concerning the funeral of Ariel Sharon.

“The Israeli military said four rockets were launched from Gaza on Monday. The first two rockets did not reach Israel, the second two landed on open ground.”

In fact, BBC journalists reporting from Sharon’s funeral were in no need of information from “the Israeli military” as they found themselves in the vicinity at the time of the later missile attacks.

tweets Shuval missiles funeral

tweet Doucet missiles funeral

Up to the morning of January 16th 2014, there have been seven separate incidents (some involving more than one projectile) of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year, with the BBC having briefly mentioned around half of those attacks mostly in articles related to other subjects and usually in cases in which there has been an Israeli response. There has been no dedicated report on the subject reflecting the fact that seven attacks using fifteen missiles have taken place in sixteen days. 

On January 2nd a missile was fired at the Sdot Negev area. The BBC mentioned that incident – and the subsequent Israeli response – in this report.

“The raids were in response to a militant rocket attack on southern Israel on Thursday night, according to Israeli Radio.”

On January 6th a missile landed in the Eshkol region. That incident was not reported by the BBC.

On January 9th three mortars were fired at an Israeli patrol near the border fence with the Gaza Strip and an additional attack was thwarted. The BBC did not report that attack.

On January 11th sirens sounded in the Ashkelon region as a missile was fired from the Gaza Strip. That incident was not reported by the BBC.

On January 13th two missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip in the morning and two additional ones in the afternoon. As mentioned above, both incidents were briefly noted in this BBC article.

In the early hours of January 16th at least five rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards the Ashkelon area and those attacks are briefly noted in the article above.  rock attack near Hebron 15 1 14

Additional terror-related news not reported at all by the BBC during the first half of January includes the arrest of the perpetrators of the bus bombing in Bat Yam in December and the discovery of a Hamas terror cell planning to kidnap Israelis.

The following incidents (which are just some of many more to have taken place since the beginning of the year) have also received no BBC coverage: stones thrown at a minibus on Route 443, the attempted stabbing of a Border policeman in Jerusalem, a thwarted attack on Migdal Oz, fire-bombs and stones thrown at Israeli cars near Bethlehem, a grenade thrown at an IDF base near Bethlehem, a pipe-bomb thrown at Rachel’s Tomb, fire-bombs thrown at an Israeli bus on Route 60, a man stabbed in the neck in Jerusalem and a drive-by shooting on Route 55.

With the BBC’s record on reporting missile fire from the Gaza Strip standing at just over 50% so far this year and its record on reporting additional forms of terrorism in other districts standing at zero, BBC audiences are clearly not being provided with the background information necessary for them to form a proper understanding of subjects such as the effects of rising terrorism on the current talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Neither are they being given the context necessary to them to properly understand the Israeli responses to terror on which the BBC does chose to report.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on doubling of terror attacks since renewed ME talks

BBC continues to ignore non-fatal terror attacks


Unnoted corrections to BBC report on Salafist terror cell

A headline appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on the evening of November 26th informed readers of “Palestinians killed in Israeli raid”.

Yatta headline MEp

The link leads to a short article titled “Suspected Palestinian militants killed in Israeli raid“, the second version of which is shown below. 


That 121 word article contained very sparse information and was amended after its initial publication to include two additional uses of the phrase “suspected militants” in addition to the two already included in its initial version. 

amended Yatta article

The incidents to which the report refers took place on the evening of November 26th in Yatta, south of Hebron. As Israeli security forces operated to arrest members of a Salafist group (in addition to others already arrested earlier) planning to execute terror attacks in the coming days, two members of the group were intercepted whilst travelling in a car. The two initial BBC reports failed to mention that the occupants of the vehicle fired at the security forces when the latter tried to stop them, stating only that:

“Two of the suspected militants were killed in their vehicle near the city of Hebron, Israeli officials said.” 

According to more detailed reports:

“The Palestinian terror suspects were in a car that had explosives and firearms in it, when they were met by the counterterrorism unit and additional special forces, who were sent to intercept the vehicle, a senior IDF source said.

Israeli forces opened fire at the car’s wheels, and the suspects fired back. Following an exchange of fire, the two suspects were killed, the source said.”

On the morning of November 27th, the BBC report underwent significant changes and the later version now reflects the fact that an exchange of fire took place.  

“Two of the militants were killed in a shoot-out when security forces tried to arrest them, near Hebron, a domestic intelligence official said.”

yatta later version Weds am

The link to the article on the Middle East page was also amended to better reflect the actual events:

Yatta headline ME p version 2

The original BBC report stated:

“According to security agents, the network was planning attacks on Israel in the coming days.”

It neglected to mention that the cell was also planning attacks against the Palestinian Authority.

“The IDF said the organization to which the two belonged had over the past months attempted to set up an extensive military infrastructure across the West Bank. The organization had planned to target Palestinian Authority structures and personnel, in addition to Israeli soldiers and settlers, the statement said.”

That omission was rectified in the later version of the report:

“Officials said the cell had planned a series of attacks in the coming days.

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority were among their targets, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service said, according to the AFP news agency.”

The first two versions of the BBC report also stated:

“Members of the [Salafi jihadist] movement are thought to operate in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

In fact, the operation of Salafist groups in both those areas (as well as in the neighbouring Sinai Peninsula and in Syria) is well-known – rather than merely “thought” to exist – with the BBC itself having reported on Salafists in the Gaza Strip and a Hizb ut Tahrir rally (not reported by the BBC) having taken place in Ramallah last July. Amos Harel writes in Ha’aretz:

“The presence of the Salafis, most of whom are not violent, is now being felt in the West Bank, nearly a decade after they established themselves in the Gaza Strip. Last year, saw a rise in their organized operations, most of which are not political and do not involve terror activity. In East Jerusalem, in particular, one stream called Hizb a-Tahrir stands out, though its activities aren’t violent. Still, there have recently been large assemblies of Salafist groups at several locations in the West Bank, including in the Hebron area. “Suddenly, from nowhere, you hear that 30,000 people are attending a gathering at the stadium in the South Hebron Hills,” a senior military official told Haaretz.

[…] On the margins of the Salafist movements, there is a violent jihadist arm under the influence of al-Qaida’s violent ideology, which has already manifested itself in cells in the Gaza Strip. One can assume that the increased activity of factions with similar ideologies, both in the Sinai Peninsula and especially in the murderous Syrian civil war, strengthens support for them in the West Bank.”

Again, the later version of the report corrected that inaccuracy:

“Salafist jihadists – ultra-conservative Islamists who espouse violence to realise their political objectives – are active in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser extent in the West Bank.”

Whilst it is good to see the BBC News website correcting its own mistakes, no notification of the changes made is provided to those visitors to the site who read the earlier – inaccurate – versions of the article during the eleven or so hours that they were left up on the website. Having already read the report, those readers are unlikely to bother revisiting it just to check if the BBC has made any amendments. Once again, this underlines the need for a dedicated page showing corrections and amendments on the BBC News Ashkelonwebsite.   

Also on November 26th, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip carrying a grenade was apprehended near Kibbutz Kfar ‘Aza after managing to infiltrate the border fence. On the same evening, residents of Ashkelon had to rush to their air-raid shelters as the siren warning of incoming missiles from the Gaza Strip sounded. The missile fell short, landing in the Gaza Strip and endangering the local population there. Neither of those incidents was reported by the BBC. 

BBC report on Ashkelon: 80% of footage from elsewhere

This looks promising at first sight: a two minutes and 27 seconds BBC News report by Jeremy Bowen entitled “Israeli-Gaza conflict: Ashkelon bears brunt of rockets” from November 18th

The town of Ashkelon (population about 120,000) has indeed suffered greatly from rocket attacks over the past twelve years as well as the past few days

Israeli rescue workers stand at the scene of a rocket attack in the southern city of Ashkelon May 14, 2008. A rocket struck a shopping mall in Ashkelon, close to the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday and wounded several people, the Israeli army and emergency service officials said.

Ashkelon shopping centre after a rocket attack in 2008. Photo credit Reuters

School in Ashkelon Itai Levi / Jini

A school in Ashkelon after being hit by a Grad rocket in 2009. Photo by Itai Levi / Jini

Ashkelon residents outside a building hit by a rocket on November 18th 2012. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Here is some footage from Ashkelon taken on November 19th by Al Jazeera. 

So did BBC audiences finally get to see what is happening in that beleaguered town? Well, not much.

 Bowen’s 147 second report showed a mere twenty-eight seconds of footage from Ashkelon.

The rest of the report showed images of a meeting of the Israeli cabinet (12 seconds), Israeli soldiers training (60 seconds), President Obama (25 seconds), the Iron Dome missile defence system (25 seconds), a panorama of Gaza City (2 seconds) during which Bowen injects the loaded term ‘proportionate’, an interview with Lt Col Leibovich of the IDF Spokesman’s unit (14 seconds) and is then rounded up with a further 20 seconds of pictures of Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

So BBC viewers are probably little the wiser about what it is like for the residents of Ashkelon to “bear the brunt” of barrages of rocket attacks for years on end after Jeremy Bowen’s report.

But they do now know that there are lots of soldiers, politicians and very big bulldozers in Israel.