Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

Just before 1 p.m. on January 27th incoming missiles from Syria triggered air-raid sirens in the northern Golan Heights.  Local residents took cover in their air-raid shelters and over a thousand visitors to the Mount Hermon ski resort had to be quickly evacuated. At least two projectiles were determined to have landed in Israeli territory and the IDF responded with artillery fire directed at the launch site in Syria and later on in the evening with strikes on Syrian army artillery posts. Both Israeli and foreign sources attributed the missile fire to Hizballah acting from Syrian army positions.

Despite at least one of its journalists in the region being aware of the incident, the BBC News website elected not to report those events at the time.

Aft 27 1 MEHP

A day later – Wednesday, January 28th – an additional incident took place when Hizballah conducted a cross-border attack in the Har Dov area, firing anti-tank missiles at Israeli army vehicles. Mortars were also fired at an IDF position on Mount Hermon and reportedly at the village of Ghajar.  Two soldiers were killed and seven wounded. Israel responded with artillery and air strikes.

In the BBC News website’s report on those events – originally headlined “Israeli soldiers wounded in Lebanon border attack” and later retitled “Israel fires into Lebanon after attack on troops”, followed by “Israel fires shells into Lebanon after attack on troops” and then “UN peacekeeper killed after Hezbollah-Israel clash” – the previous day’s events were described in one sentence.

“The incident came just hours after Israel launched an air strike on Syrian army positions near the Golan Heights in retaliation for rockets that were fired into Israel on Monday.”

In fact, the missiles were fired on Tuesday (January 27th) and readers obviously would not understand from this description that Hizballah was responsible for that attack as well, meaning that their ability to put the attack which is the subject matter of the report into its correct context would be impaired.

Also notable was the change in description of the incident on the BBC News website Middle East homepage. Initial reports portrayed events in the order in which they had happened – albeit without mentioning Hizballah.

Har Dov attacks on HP

As the day went on, that description was altered and became less clear as terms such as “border clashes” and “trade fire” were employed, creating a false and misleading sense of equivalence.

Har Dov attacks on HP later

The BBC report at that URL was later replaced with one titled “Three killed as Israel and Hezbollah trade fire” in which the fact that the incident took place near the ‘Shebaa Farms’ area is noted twice in succession.

“The peacekeeper was killed close to the disputed Shebaa Farms area, where an Israeli convoy was earlier hit by anti-tank missiles, killing two soldiers.”

“Wednesday’s cross-border violence erupted when Israeli military vehicles were hit at about 11:35 (09:35 GMT) near Mt Dov, in the Shebaa Farms area, a disputed tract of land where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.”

The fact that this incident and the one preceding it in the northern Golan Heights have nothing to do with the dispute arising from Lebanese claims to the Shebaa Farms area defined by the UN as not belonging to Lebanon is not made clear to readers. The report also states:

“The flare-up along the Israeli-Lebanon frontier recalls the beginning of the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, which was triggered by a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli military vehicle that led to the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers.”

Significantly, the BBC refrains from informing readers of the crucially relevant point that according to UN SC resolution 1701 which brought the 2006 conflict to an end, Hizballah should have been disarmed and neither that terrorist organization nor any others should be operating in southern Lebanon.  

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More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

On January 18th the BBC News website published a report titled “‘Israel strike’ kills Hezbollah men in Syria’s Golan Heights” which relates to an incident near Quneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights earlier in the day. The report includes several features worthy of note.Hizb strike main

With regard to the incident itself, the report gives a reasonable representation of the information which was available at the time of publication.

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.

Among those reported dead were the son of a late military leader, a current commander, and at least one Iranian. […]

Those who died include Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a top military commander killed in 2008, and Mohammed Issa, a Hezbollah field commander, Hezbollah officials said.

One member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had died, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Iran’s semi-official Tabnak news agency said several Revolutionary Guards had been killed.”

The Iranian news agency Fars has since confirmed the death of IRGC officer Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a Lebanese source told AFP that in all twelve people were killed in the strike – six from Hizballah and six Iranians – although other reports have presented different information.

With regard to the key question of what a convoy of Hizballah operatives and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were doing near the border with Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the BBC quotes the version of events promoted by Hizballah media.

“Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said they were killed in Quneitra province “during a field reconnaissance mission”.”

It then adds:

“Israel said it would not comment, though unnamed sources confirmed an Israeli helicopter strike.

They claimed those targeted were conducting reconnaissance for a Hezbollah attack.”

However, whilst no attempt is made to provide readers with the relevant context of the cross-border attacks carried out by Hizballah in recent months, the article does inform them that:

“Israel has conducted several air strikes inside Syria since the conflict began, said to be aimed at preventing the transfer of stockpiles of rockets from the Syrian government or Iran to Hezbollah.”

The article notes that:

“The incident comes days after a warning to Israel by the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that his forces might retaliate against what he called repeated Israeli strikes inside Syria.

He said his forces had been stockpiling weapons for such a confrontation and that these included long range missiles that could hit every part of Israel.”

Those quotes come from an interview given by Nasrallah on January 15th to Al Mayadeen TV in which he explained the ‘logic’ behind the statement highlighted in the BBC’s account, according to which a Lebanese terrorist organization backed by Iran is prepared to attack Israel because of that country’s perceived actions in Syria.

“A key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Nasrallah, who has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to help defend the regime, said that Israeli strikes on Syria “target the whole of the resistance axis”, which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.

“The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria,” he told the Beirut-based Arab news television.  […]

Nasrallah said in the interview that Hezbollah was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel. Hezbollah fighters “must be prepared”, he said.

“When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership… asks you (fighters)… to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee.””

Like much of the media, the BBC’s report focuses on one of the people reported killed.

“Jihad Mughniyeh is the son of Imad Mugniyeh, who was killed in a bombing in a bombing in Damascus in 2008. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the death, but Israel denied it.

Imad Mughniyeh was widely believed to be behind a wave of Western hostage-taking in Lebanon during the 1980s.”

Mughniyeh’s record of course included a lot more than hostage-taking as the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star pointed out – but the self-styled ‘standard-settling’ BBC did not.

“Believed to be the mastermind of Hezbollah’s combat tactics, Mughniyeh was considered to be involved in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine and French peacekeeping barracks in Beirut, which killed over 350 people, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the kidnapping of Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s.”

The BBC’s descriptions of Hizballah throughout the report fail to note that it is an internationally designated terrorist organization (or even to mention the word terror) or that its ‘Al Manar’ TV station quoted by the BBC in this report was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity by the United States Treasury and is also banned in several European countries.  

“An Israeli air strike has killed six members of Hezbollah in the Syrian sector of the Golan Heights, the Lebanese militant movement says.”

“Hezbollah militants have been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in a four-year Syrian conflict that activists say has left more than 200,000 people dead.”

“Israel fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah, a mainly Shia group backed by Iran, in 2006.” [all emphasis added]

The caption to the main photograph used to illustrate the article states:

“Hezbollah has strong support in Lebanon”

At the bottom of the article appears an insert which likewise does nothing to enhance BBC audiences’ understanding of the real nature, record and agenda of Hizballah and of course makes no mention of the fact that according to assorted UN resolutions, it should have been disarmed years ago.

Hizb art insert

The link included at the bottom of that insert leads to the December 2013 version of the BBC’s profile of Hizballah which, as readers may recall, was amended to present a much softer picture of the terrorist organization than the profile it replaced by means of airbrushing Hizballah’s terrorist designation by numerous countries worldwide, its terrorist activities outside Lebanon, its involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri and its role in the Syrian civil war and with no mention made whatsoever of Hizballah’s criminal activities around the globe. 

Obviously BBC audiences will not be able to understand the significance and implications of terrorists and IRGC officers on Israel’s border as long as the BBC continues to fail to represent Hizballah properly. 

 

BBC’s Connolly presents anti-Israel political activist as ‘community leader’

Kevin Connolly’s recent excursion to the Golan Heights was also reported in the form of a radio report which was broadcast on two separate BBC platforms on November 13th as part of the BBC News ‘Syria Days’ project.

In the morning the item appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (from 00:45:40 here) and later on a slightly expanded version was broadcast in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 00:47:00 here).

Both introductions to the item – from Sarah Montague and James Menendez respectively – ran along the following lines:

“Our correspondent Kevin Connolly has been to the Golan Heights where a line of separation divides Syria from Israeli-occupied territory and he’s been to see what the future looks like from there.”

In fact, Connolly’s item provides very little in the way of factual information – not least because at this stage of affairs, nobody can really proffer more than an educated guess about what future regional developments may bring. His report opens with the sounds of a theatre performance in Arabic and Connolly telling listeners:

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams

“We are in the small, dark theatre in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The play – a one-man show – deals with the agonies of the past: the story of Palestinian refugees.”

There is of course no link whatsoever between the Golan Heights and “the story of Palestinian refugees” but what Connolly saw was probably part of a recent festival promoted by an organization which has relevance to an interview conducted later in his report.

The report’s first interviewee is Tal Pelter from Ein Zivan, described by Connolly as someone who “makes wine in an Israeli settlement on the Golan and is still making plans for the long-term future here.”

Connolly then goes on to promote the usual trite, homogeneous portrayal of Druze residents of the Golan Heights seen so often in the Western media:

“Most of the Druze of the Israeli-occupied Golan continue to regard themselves as Syrians. They follow the television news from Damascus and await the reunification of a country from which they were cut off by the wars of 1967 and 1973. But they know that the staggering destruction of Syria’s civil war is changing everything in the Middle East. Tayseer Maray – a community leader in Majdal Shams – senses that a historic process is now underway in which countries like Syria and Iraq created at the end of the First World War are disappearing, to be replaced by a single Arab State.”

Connolly’s introduction of his interviewee does not inform audiences that Tayseer Maray is in fact a long-time political activist who heads an organization called ‘Golan for Development’ (organizer of the above theatre festival) which is linked to OPGAI: a forum of anti-Israel campaigning organisations mainly from the Palestinian sector, including Badil and the AIC.

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams

Listeners hear Maray say:

“This country or this new country that will emerge, it’s clear. I mean now we can see that the border between Syria and Iraq does not exist and also I think that Lebanon sooner or later will be part of what’s going on and Jordan is not in very stable situation. I see that we will have really very big Arab country that will exist in this area.”

Connolly: “Is this the end of the age of the nation-state in the Middle East?”

Maray: “I think that it will be the end of the nation-state in the normal meaning.”

Unfortunately, Connolly did not ask his interviewee what sort of “very big Arab country” he predicts – Sunni or Shia – or whether or not his latest predictions differ in any way from those he was making in 2010 (long before the Syrian civil war began) when he personally told this writer that an Iranian-led caliphate was just around the corner.

Connolly’s third interviewee is Efraim Halevi who raises the possibility of a different scenario than the one proposed by Tayseer Maray: one of the disintegration of Syria and Lebanon into ethnic, religious and political ‘statelets’.

What BBC audiences will have been able to take away from Connolly’s report is unclear, but one thing is certain: they would have been better equipped to judge the context and relevance of Maray’s predictions for the Middle East had they been informed – in line with BBC guidelines on impartiality – of his political activities and associations. 

 

Inaccurate BBC representation of Golan Heights ‘relics’

BBC News’ recent big multi-platform feature on Syria (more on that later) included a filmed report from the Golan Heights by Kevin Connolly which, in addition to being aired on BBC television news, also appeared on the BBC News website on November 13th under the title “Could Syria be a catalyst for change in the Middle East?“.

In the report, Connolly correctly told viewers that:

“The landscape is littered with relics of the fighting in 1967 and in 1973 when Syria tried and failed to win back the land it lost.”

However, the footage used to illustrate that statement by Connolly included the following images, neither of which have anything to do with either the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War or indeed with the modern states of Israel or Syria.

Connolly Goaln filmed 2

Connolly Golan filmed 3

The first image shows a pillbox constructed by the British in 1941 near Ein Tawfik in the south Golan Heights, close to the 1923 border between British-administered Mandate Palestine and French-administered Mandate Syria. The second image shows a nearby tank barrier also constructed during the Second World War with the intention of preventing French and/or German tanks entering Mandate Palestine via the Golan Heights.

Had the BBC’s cameraman swung a little to the right, he would have seen a statue and a plaque commemorating the fact that Eli Cohen passed through that tank barrier on his way to El Hama in 1962 – five years before the Six Day War.

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Later on in the report, Connolly told audiences:Connolly Golan filmed

“Land on the Syrian side of the UN-controlled checkpoint [Kuneitra] is in the hands these days not of the Syrian army but of an Islamist rebel group.”

In fact there is more than one rebel group currently holding positions in that area. Connolly also stated that:

“Israel has been fortifying its fences and responding with force whenever shells or missiles hit land under its control.”

In actual fact, whilst Israel has indeed responded with retaliatory fire on occasion, it has by no means done so in all of the dozens of cases of cross-border fire – deliberate or accidental – which have taken place in the past months and so Connolly’s assertion that Israel responds “whenever” such fire takes place is inaccurate.

BBC still promoting the myth of a demilitarized zone that doesn’t exist

October 1st saw the appearance of a report titled “Syria peacekeeping ‘impossible’ – Philippines leader” on the BBC News website’s Asia and Middle East pages. The article relates to statements made by the President of the Philippines at a welcoming ceremony for his country’s soldiers formerly stationed with UNDOF in the Golan Heights.UNDOF Phil Pres art

“President Aquino on Wednesday raised the possibility the Philippines would no longer deploy Filipino troops in UN peacekeeping operations during ceremonies in Malacañang where he led a hero’s welcome for soldiers pulled out from the Golan Heights where they had battled Syrian rebels late last August. […]

The President criticized the United Nations for rejecting requests to provide additional firearms for Filipino peacekeepers, who faced what he called “mission impossible” in the Golan Heights. […]

“When the situation changed, when rebels began to show up in this area of disengagement, [the United Nations] should have addressed the situation and said there was a new mission,” he said.”

Since late August the BBC News website has produced numerous articles on the topic of the UNDOF mission – see here, here, here, here and here . This latest report brings the total number of articles on the subject published in the five weeks between August 28th and October 1st 2014 to nine.

Most of those reports include standard statements along the lines of this one from the latest article:

“Israel seized most of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau in south-western Syria, during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The two countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which the UN Disengagement Observer Force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.

It has 1,224 lightly armed military personnel from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.”

As this latest report and a quotation in the BBC’s September 1st article both illustrate, countries contributing personnel to UNDOF are well aware of the fact that the situation on the ground has changed significantly in the past couple of years and the terms of 1974 armistice agreement cited by the BBC are no longer being upheld.

” “I’ve made it very clear that I’m not going to continue to commit Irish troops to this mission unless there’s a very fundamental review of how it’s going to operate. Clearly this is no longer a demilitarized zone,” Irish Defence Minister Simon Coveney told RTE radio.”

Recent reports from the UN Secretary General and the Security Council both reflect the changes brought about by the fact that the UN’s presence failed to keep the DMZ demilitarized.

UN SC UNDOF

The widely reported infiltration of a Syrian military aircraft into Israeli territory on September 23rd was only covered by the BBC News website in the form of a brief announcement on a live page being run that day on the subject of US airstrikes against ISIS. 

Syrian aircraft infiltration 23 9

BBC audiences continue to remain in the dark with regard to the significant changes and developments in that particular part of the Middle East due to the fact that the corporation continues to use long redundant template descriptions of the region in its articles and its area profile, hence impeding audience understanding of current and future events. 

BBC’s template wording on Golan Heights fails to keep audiences abreast of events

The BBC News website’s coverage of the recent incidents involving two different groups of UNDOF personnel began on August 28th with some problematic geography.

BBC breaking tweet UNDOF

UNDOF

Just over half an hour later, someone at BBC News apparently realised that the Syrian opposition group which captured UNDOF soldiers was unlikely to be located in the part of the Golan Heights the BBC terms “disputed” and that hence the automatic reflex adjective was inaccurate.

UNDOF 2

The title of BBC’s article on the topic was amended to read “Syria conflict: UN peacekeepers held in Golan Heights” and changes to that report – originally date-stamped August 28th – can be seen here. The article states:

“It comes a day after rebels took control of a crossing into the Israeli-occupied Golan after a long battle.

Activists said the rebels included members of the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

During the fighting, an Israeli soldier and an Israeli civilian were wounded by stray bullets. The Israeli military said it had responded with artillery fire at two Syrian army positions.”

In fact, whilst the IDF officer was injured by a gunshot wound to the chest, the civilian from Kibbutz Ein Zivan was wounded by mortar fire. Those events on August 27th had previously been briefly and partially mentioned at the end of a report titled “Syria conflict: Islamic State ‘committed war crimes’“.

“In a separate development, Syrian rebel groups including the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front have taken control of a crossing between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, according to a UK-based monitoring group.

“The Nusra Front and other rebel groups took the Quneitra crossing, and heavy fighting with the Syrian army is continuing in the surrounding area,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Israel Defence Forces said one of its officers “was moderately injured as a result of errant fire from Syria”.

“In response, we struck 2 Syrian military positions in the Golan Heights,” an IDF spokesperson [sic]”.

The BBC News website’s second report on the UNDOF story appeared on August 29th under the title “Golan Heights: UN calls for release of Fijian peacekeepers“. On August 30th a third report appeared titled “Philippine troops ‘attacked in Syria’s Golan Heights’” and on August 31st a fourth report was published under the title “Philippine peacekeepers rescued in Syria’s Golan Heights“.

The first two articles both include the following statements taken in part from the BBC’s problematic profile of the Golan Heights which fails to make any mention of why Israel captured the area and its use by Syria prior to June 1967 as a position from which to attack Israeli civilian communities below.

“The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance that belies its size.

Israel seized the region in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973.

Both countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which Undof was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.

It has 1,224 lightly-armed military personnel from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.”

The latter two reports use the following formulation:

“Israel seized most of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau in south-western Syria, during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The two countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which Undof was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.

It has 1,224 lightly-armed military personnel from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.”

UNDOF’s actual mandate includes of course rather more than the BBC’s simplistic portrayal reveals and includes ensuring that both parties to the 1974 Israel-Syria Separation of Forces Agreement keep its terms.

UNDOF mandate

In relation to clause 5 above:

“The UNDOF shall carry out inspections under the agreement, and report there on to the parties, on a regular basis, not less often that once every fifteen days, and, in addition, when requested by either party.”

Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, conditions on the ground have changed and the demilitarized zone has long since ceased to live up to its name. UNDOF personnel are known to have ceased inspections in the area of limitation in armament and forces on the Syrian side. On its website, UNDOF itself divides its activity into two phases: 1974 to 2012 and 2013 to the present because of the change in conditions.UNDOF art 4

“A considerable escalation of the conflict in Syria in 2013 has affected the UNDOF area of operations significantly. The military operations carried out by the Syrian Arab armed forces and the armed members of the opposition in the area of separation have adversely affected the efforts of the Force to effectively carry out the mandated tasks. They have also significantly raised the potential of escalating tensions between Israel and Syria and jeopardizing the decades-long ceasefire between the two countries and the stability of the whole region. […]

By its resolution 2108 of 27 June 2013, the Security Council stressed the obligation of both Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic to scrupulously observe the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and abide by its terms. Underscoring that there should be no military forces in the area of separation, it also called on all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict to cease military actions in the UNDOF area of operation.”

Beyond moves such as the above resolution, the UN Security Council has done nothing to bring about the restoration of the designated status of the demilitarized zone which its UNDOF forces failed to keep free of military activity in accordance with their mandate. With frequent bouts of fighting between Syrian government forces and opposition groups taking place in that area often resulting in spillover fire into Israel and with tensions along the border rising as a result, UNDOF’s failure to meet its purpose is clearly an issue of significance about which BBC audiences need to be informed if they are to be able to reach informed opinions on current and future events and to understand Israeli reactions to them. That information was not provided in any of these four articles, which instead use template wording which has already been irrelevant for two years.  

Victim of Golan Heights terror attack unnamed in BBC News report

On the afternoon of June 22nd the BBC News website published a report on its Middle East page under the rather clumsy title “Israeli teen ‘killed by Syria firing’ in Golan Heights“.Golan incident main

The report states:

“A 15-year-old boy has been killed in the occupied Golan Heights by firing from Syria, Israel says.

Officials say he was with his father in a truck which took a “direct hit”.

The father and another contract worker are reported to have been injured. They were was [sic] carrying out maintenance work on the border fence,

It is unclear whether Syrian rebels or government forces were behind the incident, but Israel responded with tank shelling into Syria.

The exchange took place in the Tel Hazeka area, near the Quneitra crossing, the Israeli defence ministry said.”

Although details of the event were released for publication around half an hour after this BBC report was published, it has so far not been updated to include the victim’s name or correct age. In fact, Mohammed Karakra was thirteen years old; not 15 as initially reported and he had accompanied his father to work on the first day of his summer holidays from school. Mohammed’s father – from the village of ‘Arrabe in the Galilee – is part of a team of contractors working on the border fence in the Golan Heights on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.  He was seriously injured and is currently hospitalized in Haifa. Two other workers were also injured in the cross-border terror attack which took place at around 11 a.m. near Tel Hezeka, in the vicinity of the community of Alonei HaBashan.

Mohammed Karakra photo credit: alarab.net

Mohammed Karakra
photo credit: alarab.net

The BBC report continues:

“It is the first time an Israeli has been killed by firing from Syria in the Golan Heights since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

Israeli military spokesman, Lt Col Peter Lerner, told AP news agency the firing from Syria was “clearly intentional” but it was unclear whether it was the result of mortar fire, a roadside bomb or shelling.”

The Israeli media reports that it is now believed that an anti-tank missile was fired at Mohammed’s father’s vehicle. Whilst the vicinity on the other side of the border where the incident took place is currently controlled by anti-regime forces, it is not yet known which of numerous organisations operating in the area – which include Hizballah – is responsible for the attack.

The BBC article then goes on to present readers with its standard insert to any report relating to the Golan Heights.

“The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, was seized by Israel from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East War.

The two countries remain technically in a state of war, and UN observers are deployed to monitor a 70km-long (44-mile) demilitarised zone.”

Of course the BBC has done little to keep audiences informed of changes to UNDOF’s operations in recent months or of the full scale of cross-border incidents in the area. 

Off the BBC radar: an Israeli paramedic on the Syrian border

Since it became known about fifteen months ago that Israel is providing medical care to injured Syrians in a field hospital in the Golan Heights and in civilian hospitals throughout the north, the BBC has covered that story twice – see here and here – with both reports focusing on the patients.

Now, via Elder of Ziyon, we can hear the side of that story as told by IDF paramedic Staff Sgt. Noga Erez who was recently honoured by Israel’s President at the traditional Independence Day awards for outstanding soldiers.

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BBC throws mud over repatriation of Syrians

BBC Arabic reports on Syrian patients in Israeli hospitals – but not in Arabic

At last: an accurate and impartial BBC report on Syrian patients in Israel

Northern exposure: what the BBC isn’t reporting about the Israel-Syria border

Round-up of BBC coverage of security incidents – April 2014

With security incidents usually accounting for a significant proportion of the BBC’s coverage of Israel, it is interesting to take a look at which events are deemed newsworthy and which not. Throughout the month of April 2014, security took something of a back seat to BBC News website coverage of the Israel-PLO talks. 

In the northern sector a mortar fired from Syria – apparently errant fire – landed in the Golan Heights on April 7th. That incident was not covered by the BBC.

In the central sector a total of eighty-seven attacks took place throughout April in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem, with the vast majority (73) being fire-bomb attacks. Two additional fire-bombings occurred within the ‘green line’. On April 14th a fatal incident took place when Baruch Mizrachi was killed by a sniper on Route 35 and two others injured. That incident was initially ignored by the BBC and when – well over a day later – it finally was covered, a grand total of thirty-four words were used to describe the incident in an article relating to another topic. Later versions of the report did not greatly improve on the initial coverage.

Other incidents ignored by the BBC – along with the above mentioned fire-bombing attacks – include the announcement of the arrest of six lawyers  from Jerusalem suspected of working for Hamas, the thwarting of a stabbing attack in Ma’ale Adumim and the prevention of another planned attack at Tapuach Junction.

In the southern sector on the evening of April 3rd air-raid sirens sounded three times in the Sderot area with four missile launches later identified. Earlier on the same day, Israeli forces patrolling the northern section of the border with the Gaza Strip came under sniper fire, with an armoured vehicle sustaining damage as a result.

Sderot train station

Sderot train station

 

On April 4th three missiles hit the Hof Ashkelon area and the IDF later responded.  On the evening of April 5th another missile landed south of Ashkelon, on April 6th a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip landed near a kibbutz in the Sha’ar HaNegev area and later the IDF again responded.

On April 7th an IED attack against Israeli forces patrolling the border fence with the Gaza Strip was prevented. On the afternoon of April 9th sirens sounded again in the Hof Ashkelon area, with the missile falling short. Later in the evening of the same day, a mortar shell hit a kibbutz in the Sha’ar HaNegev region. On April 10th IDF forces patrolling the border came under mortar fire from attackers in the Gaza Strip and a similar incident of mortar fire on an Israeli patrol also took place on April 14th, with a mortar also having been fired the previous day and sirens having sounded.

In the early hours of April 16th another round of missiles was fired from the Gaza Strip at sleeping Israeli civilians. On the evening of April 20th an IED was activated against Israeli soldiers and April 21st an RPG was fired at an army patrol. On the same morning a barrage of missiles was fired at the Sha’ar HaNegev area and the IDF later responded. As was noted here at the time, neither that incident – nor any of the prior ones mentioned above – was reported by the BBC.

On April 23rd a counter-terrorism strike was carried out by Israel near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip and three missiles were launched at the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar HaNegev areas.

The BBC finally mentioned the April 21st missile attacks in an April 23rd article on the BBC News website concerning the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal, but failed to note the three attacks from the same day.  

“Shortly after Wednesday’s reconciliation deal was announced, five people were injured in an Israeli air strike in northern Gaza, Palestinian medics said.

Israel said it had targeted militants preparing to fire rockets. On Monday, seven rockets were launched from the territory into southern Israel.”

On April 24th another mortar was fired at an Israeli patrol in the southern part of the border area, two IEDs were discovered and an additional one was detonated near soldiers in a failed attack.

Western Negev, looking towards Gaza Strip

Western Negev, looking towards Gaza Strip

 

As the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Lappin has noted:

“…figures for rocket attacks for 2014 confirm what residents of the South have been feeling for months, that a major upsurge in projectile attacks has occurred this year.

More than 100 rockets, most of them fired by Islamic Jihad in heavy salvos in March, were launched at Israel since the start of this year. In 2013, during the same period, from January to April 24, nine rocket attacks were reported.”

BBC audiences, however, remain oblivious of the fact that missile attacks from the Gaza Strip have risen over ten-fold in comparison with the same period of time last year, primarily because – as we see yet again this month in which almost 70% of the total missile attacks from the Gaza Strip were ignored – the vast majority of incidents receive no BBC coverage at all and those few which are reported frequently tend to be mentioned by the way in articles on other topics. 

As for any in-depth BBC reporting on how the constant missile attacks affect the lives of Israeli civilians living in districts surrounding the Gaza Strip, nothing even vaguely related to that topic has been published on the BBC News website since Operation Pillar of Cloud in November 2012.  

Related Articles:

A round-up of BBC reporting of security incidents in March 2014

90% of missile attacks from Gaza Strip in February ignored by the BBC

75% of January terror activity on Israel’s southern borders ignored by BBC

Review of the BBC’s reporting of security incidents in Judea & Samaria in January

80% of December missile attacks from Gaza Strip ignored by BBC

One hundred and sixteen stories the BBC chose not to tell

A round-up of BBC reporting of security incidents in March 2014

Security incidents of one sort or another made up the subject matter of quite a substantial proportion of the BBC News website’s coverage of Israel throughout the month of March and so it is interesting to look at what was deemed newsworthy and what was not, as well as at the quality of those reports. 

Beginning in the north, as we noted here on March 13th, by that stage of the month the BBC had already ignored the discovery of two Katyusha rockets near Majdal Shams on March 1st and an attempt to plant an improvised explosive device on the Syrian-Israeli border on the night of March 4th/5th

Tel Fares from Ramtaniya

Tel Fares from Ramtaniya

 

On March 14th another IED was activated against an Israeli patrol in the HarDov area on the Israel-Lebanon border. That incident was not reported by the BBC until four days later when a brief mention of that attack and the one of March 4th/5th appeared in a report relating to a separate incident. Hizballah has since claimed responsibility for that attack, but that news has not been reported by the BBC to date.

On March 18th, on the Israel-Syria border, another IED was activated against an Israeli patrol. The BBC published a report titled “Israeli soldiers wounded by bomb blast in Golan Heights” which was later replaced by another eventually titled “Israeli air strikes in Golan ‘kill Syrian soldier'” after Israel responded to the attack.

On March 28th an attempted infiltration of the border between Israel and Syria took place near Kibbutz Ein Zivan, with the two armed men reportedly killed. That incident was not reported by the BBC. 

During the month of March the BBC elected to report on two incidents occurring in the central region: the March 10th incident at the Allenby Bridge border crossing (which is still under investigation) and the March 22nd incident in Jenin in which Israeli forces trying to arrest a wanted terrorism suspect were attacked and three terrorists killed in the resulting gun-battle.

Among the many other incidents in the same region which the BBC elected not to report were a stabbing attack carried out by a member of the PFLP near Petah Tikva on March 2nd, the arrest in Hebron of a Hamas operative wanted since 1998 and the arrest of a resident of Jabel Mukaber with ties to Hamas on charges of sabotaging gas pipelines in the capital with the intention of causing explosions. The man also admitted carrying out a terror attack with an axe in 2012.

Incidents in which rocks and firebombs were thrown at Israeli vehicles included that of March 20th when a bus carrying schoolchildren was attacked with a firebomb near Nablus. On March 23rd an Israeli soldier was seriously injured at Rachel’s Tomb when a concrete block was thrown at him. In all, 107 incidents were recorded in Judea & Samaria and three in Jerusalem during March, with the majority (95) involving firebombs. All of those incidents were ignored by the BBC, as is habitually the case. In fact, throughout the last nine months since the current round of talks between Israel and the PLO commenced, according to ISA statistics, 916 firebomb attacks have taken place in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. Only one of those attacks (in November 2013) has been reported by the BBC.

Attacks July 13 to March 14 incl

In the southern region the BBC used a report on an incident on March 1st in which a woman was shot near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip to once again promote a flawed report by Amnesty International. On March 4th a strike against two terrorists who were in the process of firing missiles at Israeli civilian communities was the subject of a problematic BBC report. Incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip on the night of March 6th did not receive any BBC coverage.

On March 11th a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell fired a mortar at an Israeli army patrol on the Gaza Strip – Israel border and the IDF responded. Later that evening a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near Sderot. Neither of those incidents received coverage until the evening of the next day when the BBC produced the first of four reports (see also here and here)  concerning the subsequent heavy barrage of missiles from the Gaza Strip was fired at civilian communities in Israel over a period of two days. All those BBC reports were hallmarked by their amplification of PIJ propaganda, their absolving of Hamas of any responsibility for the attacks and the fact that they failed to clarify that some of the attacks were carried out by additional terrorist factions including Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Despite having sent a correspondent to Sderot, the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the point of view of Israeli civilians under attack. 

Gaza from Zikkim beach

Gaza City from Zikkim beach

 

Subsequent incidents on March 17th and 18th and the discovery of two improvised explosive devices on the border on March 25th were not reported. The discovery on March 21st of another cross-border tunnel prompted a BBC report which amplified Hamas propaganda.

BBC coverage of the March 5th seizure of a ship transporting weapons destined for terrorists in the Gaza Strip from Iran via Sudan included a blatant ‘smoke and mirrors’ report, the use of inaccurate maps, amplification of Iranian propaganda and the failure to inform audiences of evidence of Iranian involvement in the shipment.

Clearly a considerable proportion of security events – especially those not resulting in casualties – continue to be ignored by the BBC. Throughout March that was once again particularly notable in the central regions of Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem with the number of incidents reported by the BBC confined to two, whilst a total of 110 violent attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel actually took place. Clearly too, BBC audiences are not able to form fact-based opinions if such a large proportion of information is consistently withheld.

Related Articles:

90% of missile attacks from Gaza Strip in February ignored by the BBC

Review of the BBC’s reporting of security incidents in Judea & Samaria in January

One hundred and sixteen stories the BBC chose not to tell