As we noted here yesterday, one theme which already cropped up in the BBC’s reporting of the first hours of Operation Protective Edge was the portrayal of buildings used by Hamas as command and control centres and missile-launching sites in the Gaza Strip solely as “houses” or “homes”, without any information being given to audiences regarding their additional use for terrorism purposes.
That theme was repeated in the July 8th 13:00 GMT edition of the BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News’ programme which is available here and here as a podcast for a limited period of time from around 04:20.
Presenter Valerie Sanderson opens the item thus:
Valerie Sanderson: “Reports say that Israel’s security cabinet has authorised the military to call up 40 thousand reservists for a possible assault on the Gaza Strip. Israel had warned that it had the option of using ground troops in addition to the aerial bombardment it’s conducting to stop rocket attacks which have continued from the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel not to escalate military operations. He said that there was a need to refrain from dragging the region into more destruction. But latest reports say at least nine Palestinians have been injured in Israeli airstrikes. Some Palestinian families were warned to evacuate their homes after midnight. One man says his house and those of his neighbours were then levelled.
Although the BBC must surely know the name of the man it interviewed because otherwise it would not have been able to verify and fact-check his story before broadcasting it to millions around the world, it does not reveal his identity or location to listeners. However, the four dual-use residential/command and control centres targeted in the early hours of July 8th were all used by Hamas terrorists.
Unidentified man: “Around 3:20 a.m. we had a call from the army. The army called one of our family. They told us to leave the house. The whole family evacuated our house and we told the neighbours and all of us left our homes. They attacked the house about ten minutes after we’d left. The house is totally destroyed.”
Unlike the BBC, other media organisations presented a less simplistic and superficial account of similar stories, showing that in at least some cases civilian casualties were caused by the use of ‘human shields’. The Washington Post reports: [emphasis added]
“Also among the dead Tuesday were seven people, including three teens, who were killed in an airstrike on the three-story cinder-block house of a Hamas operative in the teeming city of Khan Younis, Hamas officials said. The operative was apparently not among the casualties.
One of the occupants of the house, Sawsan Kawarea, said she received a call from someone who identified himself as “David” from the Israeli military — apparently one of the warnings Israel says it issues to prevent civilian deaths.
“He asked for me by name. He said: ‘You have women and children in the house. Get out. You have five minutes before the rockets come,’ ” Kawarea said in an interview outside the crumbled building.
She ran outside with her children, she said. A first small missile struck the house — what Gazans call an Israeli “warning rocket.” After that strike, a crowd of young men ran into the house and up to the roof, thinking they would either protect the house from another strike or die defying the Israeli bombardment.
A second, much more destructive missile hit the home five minutes later. It leveled the building and sent dazed and panicked people into a small, sandy alley, their faces covered in white dust and blood. Hamas medical officials said more than a dozen people were wounded in the strike.
Ahmed Kawarea said he ran home when he heard about the first rocket. The second missile hit when he was in the stairwell on his way to the roof.
“We are civilians,” he said. “We don’t have anyone who lives in the house who works in the resistance.”
But neighbors suggested that one of the occupants was a member of the military wing of Hamas. Soon after the house was hit, a man pulled a sidearm out of his waistband and scurried into the gutted building, saying he had been sent to retrieve a laptop computer from the debris.”
The New York Times has the same story: [emphasis added]
“The call came to the cellphone of his brother’s wife, Salah Kaware said Tuesday. Mr. Kaware lives in Khan Younis, in southeast Gaza, and the caller said that everyone in the house must leave within five minutes, because it was going to be bombed.
A further warning came as the occupants were leaving, he said in a telephone interview, when an Israeli drone apparently fired a flare at the roof of the three-story home. “Our neighbors came in to form a human shield,” he said, with some even going to the roof to try to prevent a bombing. Others were in the stairway when the house was bombed not long afterward.”
Whether or not the interviewee in this programme is a member of the Kaware family, we do not know, but clearly the BBC has chosen to erase from audience view the all-important aspect of the use by Hamas and other terrorist organisations of residential buildings for the purposes of terrorism. That theme is further reinforced when Sanderson introduces an interview with a Hamas spokesman, but fails to point out to listeners that his claims of ‘occupation’ are inaccurate and irrelevant seeing as Israel left the Gaza Strip nine years ago and that his claim of strikes on “civilian institutions and homes” is false.
VS: “Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Hamas movement which controls Gaza – Sami Abu Zukhri – said Palestinians would meet any aggression head on.”
SAZ: “We warned the Israeli occupiers against continuing the escalation and targeting of civilian institutions and homes. This is a red line we will not allow the occupiers to cross. We assure you that our resistance is fully ready to face the aggression firmly and threats of the occupation and its crimes will not succeed in breaking the will of our people or scare them.”
But the ‘best’ is yet to come. Sanderson goes on:
VS: “Sami Abu Zukhri. Mark Regev is the chief spokesman for the Israeli prime minister. Before the latest announcement by the security cabinet, Rebecca Kesby asked him if Israel is engaged in a calculated escalation.”
One of the recurrent phenomena associated with media coverage of outbreaks of conflict in this region is the proliferation of journalists who suddenly transform into self-appointed ‘experts’ in military strategy and ‘international law’ and the rest of this item shows a prime example. BBC journalist Rebecca Kesby – who “studied politics at The University of Leeds” – uses her questions to the Israeli spokesman to advance the inaccurate and defamatory notion of “collective punishment”, to suggest that there is no need for Israeli action against missile fire from the Gaza Strip because Israel has the Iron Dome missile defence system, to yet again promote the falsehood of Israeli attacks on ‘civilian’ houses and to suggest some distinctly off the wall alternatives to current Israeli military strategy.
Kesby’s questions appear below. Readers can hear Mark Regev’s extensive – and very patient – answers at the link above.
RK: “Of course the Iron Dome has proved itself to be a very effective defence mechanism protecting Israel and you’ve got advanced early warning mechanisms which have also helped to protect the population in Israel. Why do you need to go in so hard now?”
RK: “Well I’m glad you bring up the word civilian because of course we have had some civilian casualties in Gaza over the past 24 hours as well – people telling us that their homes have been destroyed. Many people see this action in Gaza as collective punishment and they say that that is illegal.”
RK: “But many would say that… many would say that…whilst that [Hamas' use of human shields] is an effective and deplorable tactic by Hamas, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people’s homes should be destroyed. What about this idea that there could be an Israeli ground offensive looming? Is that something you’re considering?”
RK: “If that’s the case though, why not try to arrest these people [Hamas terrorists in Gaza Strip]?”
RK: “I mean; there are other ways. You don’t necessarily have to have ground troops to make arrests, do you? I mean you’ve got an extremely advanced, highly trained military organisation that could make surgical strikes of the arresting kind. Why don’t you attempt that?”
RK: “So what is the objective now? How are you going to de-escalate this situation that….it doesn’t look as if there’s any attempt at that at the moment.”
“Surgical strikes of the arresting kind”? Clearly way out of her depth, Kesby’s self-appointed upgrade to military strategy consultant is not just embarrassing to hear; it actively distracts listeners from forming a proper understanding of the real issues at stake.