How Pavlovian BBC responses can lead to inaccurate reporting

On January 22nd the BBC News website published a report titled “Syrian arrested in Germany over UN kidnapping” which opens as follows:Syrian arrested art

“A Syrian has been arrested in the south German city of Stuttgart on suspicion of helping to kidnap a UN peacekeeper in Damascus, prosecutors say.

The peacekeeper escaped in October 2013, eight months after being captured in Syria’s capital.

Germany’s federal prosecutors say al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group affiliated to al-Qaeda, was behind the kidnapping.”

The article goes on to state:

“The peacekeeper, whose nationality was not named, had been based in the demilitarised zone on the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights and it is not known why he was in Damascus.” [emphasis added]

As anyone familiar with the region will know, the area still known as the demilitarized zone (although it long since ceased to meet that description) is not “Israeli-occupied” at all and has not been throughout more than four decades of its existence.Camp Faouar

But a closer look at this story demonstrates even further how the Pavlovian response “Israeli-occupied” to the term “Golan Heights” from a BBC journalist led to inaccurate reporting.

Whilst the German authorities may indeed not have mentioned the UN peacekeeper’s identity and nationality, as other reports on the story note, the only person of that description to have escaped his kidnappers in October 2013 after eight months in captivity was the Canadian national Carl Campeau who acted as a legal advisor to UNDOF.

And – as noted in several interviews given by Mr Campeau after his ordeal – at the time of his kidnapping he was actually based in Syria – at UNDOF’s Camp Faouar which is located to the east of the demilitarised zone.

In other words, there was no reason whatsoever for the term “Israeli-occupied” to appear in this report.  

BBC radio stations mangle Samir Kuntar story – part two

h/t DK

The December 20th edition BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Rebecca Kesby – included an interview with Smadar Haran Kaiser (from 04:11 here) which was promoted as follows at the start of the show.

“Coming up on the programme today we’ll have reactions to the death of the Hizballah leader from a woman whose entire family was killed in a raid he took part in. It’s a compelling story from a woman with every reason to hate but who refuses to do so.”Newshour 20 12 Kesby

The synopsis appearing on that programme’s webpage promotes the item as follows:

“Israeli widow remembers Hezbollah attack”

Kuntar and his three associates did not of course carry out the terror attack in Nahariya in 1979 on behalf of “Hezbollah” (which – according to the BBC’s own profile of the organization – did not even exist at that time) but as Palestine Liberation Front operatives.

In her introduction to the item, Kesby upgraded Kuntar’s status within Hizballah ranks and predictably failed to inform listeners that it is an internationally designated terrorist organization.

“Now, one of the most senior leaders of the Shiia militant group Hizballah has been killed in Damascus. Samir Kuntar died when missiles hit a residential building in the Syrian capital. The Lebanese-based group blames Israel for the attack. They haven’t confirmed or denied it, although an Israeli minister did welcome the news of his death earlier today. Several rockets were later fired into northern Israel – perhaps in retaliation for the assassination – and we understand mortars were then fired from Israel into Lebanon.”

The subsequent part of the introduction indicates that Kesby had no idea who she was interviewing and her ignorance concerning the circumstances of the Nahariya attack obviously misleads listeners.  

“Well Samir Kuntar had previously been jailed by the Israelis for a notorious attack on a police officer and his family back in 1979. We’ll be hearing from that policeman’s widow in just a moment…”

Smadar Haran Kaiser is of course the widow of Danny Haran who was murdered by Kuntar and his group together with their four year-old daughter Einat. The murdered policeman was Eliyahu Shahar.

Kesby continued:

“… but first, Rami Khouri is a senior fellow at the American University in Beirut. He told me more about Samir Kuntar.”

Khouri was given a platform from which to whitewash terrorism against Israelis by means of inaccurate rebranding.

“He joined a Palestinian group in Lebanon called the Palestine Liberation Front and in 1979 he was involved in a guerilla operation in Israel which the Israelis called a terrorist operation…” [emphasis added]

A “guerilla operation” would by definition be directed against regular military forces. Kuntar’s cell targeted a civilian apartment building after killing a policeman who happened upon them by chance and then murdered a father and his small daughter. Kesby made no attempt to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impression given by Khouri and notably listeners were not told of the circumstances of Einat Haran’s death.

“Well Smadar Haran Kaiser’s husband was murdered by Samir Kuntar and her two daughters were also killed in that attack.”

Fortunately, Smadar Haran Kaiser proved to be more than capable of dealing with Kesby’s statements-cum-questions – several of which do not relate to the terror attack itself.

“The Israeli authorities haven’t confirmed or denied that they were responsible for this assassination today. Do you think they were and do you support it?”

“Is there a danger that this kind of attack provokes yet more violence?”

But in addition to the inaccurate information given to listeners, what is notable about this item is that (like most of the corporation’s coverage of this story) it focuses audience attention on the past, avoiding all mention of Kuntar’s more recent activities as an operative for Hizballah and Iran in Syria. That information is of course much more relevant to BBC audiences trying to understand the story.

Related Articles:

BBC radio stations mangle Samir Kuntar story – part one

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BBC World Service contact details

 

Terrorist murderer of four Samir Kuntar dubbed ‘militant’ by BBC News

A terrorist convicted by a court of law for the murders of four people was downgraded by the BBC to the status of “militant” on December 20th.

Kuntar on ME pge

Such terminology is also seen in the body of the article titled “Lebanese militant Samir Qantar killed in rocket strike in Syria” and the international terror organization with which Kuntar was most recently associated is described in similarly euphemistic language.

“Key Lebanese militant Samir Qantar has been killed in a rocket strike near the Syrian capital, Damascus, Hezbollah has said.

The Lebanese Shia militant group blamed Israel for the air strike.” [emphasis added]

The BBC also found it appropriate to amplify a denial by Kuntar – despite the existence of forensic evidence to the contrary.  

“He was convicted of murder over an attack on a civilian apartment block in Nahariya in 1979, carried out when he was 16.

Two policemen, a man and his four-year-old daughter were killed. A baby girl was accidentally smothered by her mother as she hid in a cupboard.

He was accused of killing the four-year-old girl with a rifle butt, which he denied.” [emphasis added]

The article goes on to state:Kuntar vers 1

“His release in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006 was highly controversial.”

Audiences are not informed that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were “captured by Hezbollah” and killed in an unprovoked cross border raid into Israeli territory.

Whilst the BBC’s report focuses on the attack committed by Kuntar in 1979, it does not inform readers that at the time he was an operative for another designated terrorist organization – the Palestine Liberation Front.

That focus on Kuntar’s past comes at the expense of the provision of obviously relevant context concerning his more recent activities, which this article condenses into the following opaque statement:

“Qantar is believed to have become a key figure in Hezbollah since his release.”

Whilst refraining from reporting adequately on that topic in its own words, the article quotes a US State Department announcement from three months ago which the BBC did not find newsworthy (in English, at least) at the time.

“In September, the US state department designated him a terrorist saying he had become one of Hezbollah’s “most visible and popular spokesmen”.

“Since Qantar’s return, he has also played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights,” it said.”

A caption to one of the images illustrating the article states “[a] number of other people were killed in the air strike” but BBC audiences are not provided with any further information.

“Syrian media said that among the dead was Farhan Shaalan, a commander in the National Defense Forces, a Syrian anti-Israel resistance group founded by Kuntar and others. Those reports said that senior Hezbollah members were also present in the building at the time of the attack.”

Readers are not provided with detail about the obviously relevant issue of Kuntar’s recent operational roles with Hizballah and Iran– as documented in an article earlier this year from the Washington Institute.

“Meanwhile, Israel is also contending with terrorist threats from locals — including Druze — recruited by Hezbollah to place roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near the Golan security barrier. Israeli military officials pointed to at least fifteen such attacks from March to December 2014. As one general told the New York Times last November, using locals provides plausible deniability; “Hezbollah gives them the IEDs and the Iranians give them the inspiration,” he noted. In January, an Israeli airstrike killed Jihad Mughniyah, son of the late Hezbollah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyah, as he took a “commanders’ tour” of the area; an Iranian general and several other operatives were killed as well. Since then, Jihad’s brother Mustafa has taken on a more prominent role in this part of Syria.

Although neither Hezbollah nor Iran wants to draw Israel into Syria at the moment, both feel compelled to maintain their credentials as pillars of the “resistance” against Israel. Accordingly, Hezbollah has used Samir Kuntar — a Lebanese Druze convicted for murdering an Israeli family in 1979 and released in a 2008 prisoner swap — to actively recruit Druze youths for terrorist attacks. Kuntar reportedly started off recruiting local militias to defend Druze villages from JN and other rebels. He then privately approached a few trusted recruits from Khadr to attack Israel, including two youths who originally came from Majdal Shams across the border.

Recruiting Druze, let alone Israeli Druze, put the entire community in a precarious position. Making matters worse, Kuntar’s cell carried out an IED attack on April 27, which fell during the major Druze holiday of Ziyarat al-Nabi Shuayb. Furious over the incident, one Druze leader reportedly made a youth publicly disavow his involvement in Kuntar’s group while standing in front of his whole village.”

Readers may recall that the April incident was also the subject of some confusing BBC reporting which made liberal use of the term “militants” and was as unsatisfactory as most of the previous BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks against Israel in the Golan Heights. However, whilst those incidents were not mentioned in this report, the writer did find it necessary to inform readers that “Israel is believed to have carried out a number of attacks inside Syria during its civil conflict, targeting Hezbollah”.

At least one Hizballah-linked figure has already threatened Israel following Kuntar’s death. If – or more likely when – such an attack comes, BBC audiences will of course be too under-informed to understand its context. 

No BBC News follow-up on Golan paraglider story

Given the BBC’s longstanding – but recently intensified – preoccupation with ISIS and considering that on October 25th it published a report titled “‘Israeli Arab paraglider’ sparks Syria border operation“, it was surprising to see that BBC News chose to ignore the follow-up story to the incident portrayed in that article.Paraglider art

On November 18th the Israeli security services released a statement concerning the indictment of members of a cell of ISIS sympathisers from Jaljulia.

“Security forces services recently busted a group of six Israeli Arab men who planned to travel to Syria with the intention of fighting alongside the radical Islamic State group. A seventh member of the group succeeded in flying across the Israel-Syrian border on the Golan Heights on a hang glider last month.

In a statement Wednesday, the Shin Bet security service said the six suspects, all residents of the northern Israeli-Arab town of Jaljulia, had been planning for months to make their way to Syria. […]

The seventh member of the group, Nadal Hamad Salah Salah, 23, flew a hang glider across the border from the Golan Heights and into Syria on October 24, setting off an intensive investigation by security services.

As a result of the initial investigation, later the same evening two brothers were arrested, Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala, 26 and Ahab Nadal Yousel Hagala, 22.

The brothers were known to police as supporters of the Islamic State group, the Shin Bet said. The elder brother, Jihad, spent six months in Syria in 2013 fighting with IS and was arrested after his return to Israel. He was tried, sentenced to prison, and released in November 2014.

During the investigation, it emerged that the brothers had helped Salah to make his exit to Syria to join IS, the indictment said. In recent months Salah had allegedly agreed with Jihad Nadal Yousef Hagala to use hang gliders to get to Syria. The pair planned to glide over the border because Hagala was concerned that, due to his history, he would be flagged and stopped by Israeli security if he tried flying out of Ben Gurion Airport on a commercial flight.”

Notably, the BBC also refrained from reporting on a previous story concerning an ISIS cell in northern Israel which came to light at the beginning of October.

 

 

BBC’s pattern of Gaza reporting migrates north

September 26th saw yet another incident of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria in the northern Golan Heights.

“A rocket launched from Syria fell in open territory in the northern Golan Heights on Saturday evening, causing no injuries or damage. Air raid sirens were not triggered in the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that it was likely a result of errant fire from the ongoing civil war in the neighboring country. There have been numerous such incidents since the war began in March 2011.”

The following day a similar incident occurred in the same area.

“A rocket fired from war-torn Syria strayed into the Israeli sector of the Golan Heights on Sunday, the Israeli army said, in the second such incident in as many days.

The Israeli military said the rocket crashed into a field without causing any casualties or damage.

It said that it was the result of Syria’s conflict in which various factions are fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as each other.”

Neither of those incidents was covered by BBC News. Later on the evening of September 27th Israeli forces responded to the two incidents.  

“An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed that the IDF had conducted two artillery strikes on Syrian positions on the outskirts of Quneitra following earlier rocket strike in the Golan on Sunday night.

The spokesman had said that the IDF “viewed the Syrian army as responsible for any fire emanating within its territory, and that the IDF will not allow any attempts to harm Israel’s sovereignty or citizens.””BBC Arabic Quneitra 27 9

Whilst that event was also ignored by the BBC’s English language services, as has often been the case when Israel has responded to missile fire from the Gaza Strip in recent months, the Israeli action was the focus of an article appearing on the BBC Arabic website on September 27th under the inadequate headline “Israel bombed military sites belonging to the Syrian army“.

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Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Readers may recall that some two and a half years ago the BBC got itself into hot water by promoting Assad regime propaganda on its English language website. Two days after the appearance of an article claiming that “Israeli strikes on Syria ‘co-ordinated with terrorists'” the corporation responded to considerable public outcry by amending the headline.

Apparently though, lessons have not been fully learned from that incident.

As has previously been noted here, on August 21st a report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page amplified a claim promoted by Syrian state TV according to which five men killed in an Israeli strike following a missile attack on northern Israel were “civilians”.BBC Arabic Sana propaganda

BBC Arabic however went even further. In a report dating from August 20th relating to Israeli airstrikes on regime targets in Syria which took place in response the same day’s missile attack on Israel, readers were provided with unadulterated Syrian state news agency propaganda.

“A statement by the agency SANA that the Israeli attacks aimed at “supporting armed terrorist organizations and raise the morale collapsed,” a reference to armed groups in Syria, which is fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime.”

There is of course nothing new about this particular genre of Syrian regime propaganda and Assad himself recently promoted it in an interview with Hizballah TV.

“In an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television on Monday, Assad said that Syria would not directly strike back at Israel for the attacks, but would hit Israel by fighting with rebels opposing his rule, whom he claimed were the “servants of Israel.”

“The real tools that Israel is using, which are more important than the recent attacks, they are the terrorists in Syria,” Assad said.

“If we want to deal with Israel, we must first deal with its proxies inside Syria,” he added.”

In the Middle East there are already countless media outlets reporting according to a particular political or ideological agenda. It is supposed to be the job of the BBC – including BBC Arabic and other foreign language services – to distinguish itself from regime-run media by providing audiences with accurate and impartial reporting which will enable them to understand what is fact and what is fiction. Uncritical and unchallenged amplification of obviously delusional Syrian regime propaganda is clearly not conducive to achieving that goal.

Another notable point concerning this BBC Arabic report is that the caption to the main photograph illustrating it states that “The Syrian side of the ceasefire line with Israel is currently witness to frequent clashes”. Readers would naturally therefore assume that the image shows the aftermath of one of those clashes on “the Syrian side of the ceasefire line”.

BBC Arabic Sana art photo

However, the exact same image was used in another BBC article produced on the same day and there it was described as showing northern Israel: “Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [sic].

BBC Arabic Sana cf photo

One of those captions is obviously inaccurate and misleading.

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No BBC follow up on PIJ cell it promoted as ‘civilians’

As readers no doubt recall, on August 21st the BBC promoted a claim aired on Syrian state TV according to which the people killed in an Israeli strike on members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell which fired four missiles into Israel the previous day were “five civilians”.

On August 23rd Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that the five men were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria and residents of the Al Wafdin refugee camp north-east of Damascus. The report named the men as Mohammed Taysir Shehadeh, Yousuf Fathi al Hatib, Abdo Hishan, Mohammed Hishan and Jiat Abu Aishe, adding:

“On Syrian state television it was claimed that the vehicle targeted by the IDF was a civilian vehicle belonging to residents of the Quneitra district. However a check of the vehicle’s licence plate, number 494882, indicates that it belongs to the Damascus district which is known to host the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad and the headquarters of Iran’s liason with the Syrian intelligence.”

Despite having promoted the PIJ’s denial of involvement in last week’s missile fire on Israeli civilian targets and subsequently having also amplified the claim regarding “civilians” made on Syrian state TV, the BBC has to date shown no sign of having carried out any further investigation into this story in order to present its audiences with accurate information which would improve their understanding of the story.

More than a third of BBC report on ISIS destruction of Christian site is about Israel

h/t: MR

BBC audiences might reasonably expect an article carrying the headline “Islamic State in Syria demolishes ancient Mar Elian monastery” to inform them about the wanton destruction of a 1,500 year-old historic religious building. However, a significant proportion of the report appearing under that title on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 21st actually dealt with another topic altogether; curiously described as “a separate development”.Mar Elian art

The article has undergone numerous changes since its initial appearance which can be viewed here. All four versions, however, devote over a third of their word count to the topic of an Israeli strike on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists responsible for the missile attacks on the Upper Galilee region on August 20th.

The original article devoted 36.8% of its word count to that “separate development”, the second version 48.4%, the third version 47.3% and in the version currently available, 34% of the article is not about the destruction of the Mar Elian monastery.

Under the sub-heading “Golan strikes”, the latest version (which is currently illustrated using the same image twice) informs audiences:

“In a separate development, at least five people have died in an Israeli strike on a Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel has carried out a series of raid [sic] in the area, which lies in south-western Syria, after rockets fired from Syria struck its territory on Thursday. The rockets set fire to scrubland but did not cause any casualties.”

The number of missiles launched in that cross-border attack is not specified and the fact that there are numerous rural communities in the area in which they landed is not clarified. No effort is made to explain to audiences the wider significance of a missile attack on Israeli civilian targets launched from a section of territory still under the control of the Iranian-backed Syrian regime which, in theory at least, lies within a demilitarised zone supposedly administered by the UN. The report continues with downplaying of the PIJ’s Iranian backing.

“Israel’s military has accused Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group of firing the rockets, who Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had given “sponsorship and instruction” to [sic].

While the Israelis said five or six militants were killed, a Syrian army source, quoted on Syrian state TV, said the strike killed five civilians.

One Syrian soldier was earlier reported killed in an Israeli strike on military positions in the Syrian-held section of the Golan Heights.

Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War.”

In other words, BBC audiences are encouraged to view a statement aired on Syrian regime-controlled media as being equally plausible to the one concerning Friday’s strike put out by official Israeli sources.

Interestingly, the BBC chooses not to communicate to its audiences the information on this topic put out by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which is quoted in relation to the subject matter of the earlier part of the article.

“The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the country’s war, said the five dead were members of pro-government National Defense Forces. It did not elaborate.”

The Lebanese media organization Al Mayadeen – known to be close to another Iranian proxy, Hizballah – reported that “three of the people killed in the strike were Palestinian” and one Syrian.

In addition to being bizarrely placed in an article about another topic altogether, the information provided to BBC audiences on this subject once again fails to adequately enhance their understanding of current developments on the Israel-Syria border. 

 

Superficial and inaccurate BBC reporting on cross-border incident in northern Israel

At around 5:30 pm on the afternoon of August 20th, four missiles fired from Syria hit areas on the lower flanks of the Golan Heights and in the Galilee Panhandle. Several hours later an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with the typical ‘last-first’ reporting style title “Israel fires missiles into Syria after rocket attack“.

Like all BBC News content, that article’s aim was to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and to inform by means of the provision of “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” whilst adhering to standards of accuracy and impartiality. But were those criteria met?Irua Galil Eliyon

The main photograph used to illustrate the report is captioned:

“Rockets fired into Israel caused brushfires after hitting open areas near Galilee” [emphasis added]

Two of the missiles landed in the Upper Galilee district – not “near” it – and we know that the BBC is aware of that because it later quotes an IDF statement.

“A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region….”

The article opens:

“An Israeli aircraft has fired missiles at a building in Syria’s Golan Heights in response to a rocket strike on an Israeli village, according to reports.”

There were four missile strikes – not one as suggested by that phrasing – and the projectiles landed in more than one location. Later on readers are again told that:

“Earlier rockets landed near a village in northern Israel.”

Obviously the main story here is an unprovoked missile attack on civilian targets across an international border. The wider significance of that incident and the effects of the attack on the people it targeted receive no coverage in this BBC report, which devotes almost three times more wording to the topic of the Israeli response than to the missile attack itself.

The bulk of the 318-word article, however, is devoted to the subject of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s denial of involvement via a spokesman over 250 kms away in the Gaza Strip.

“Israeli officials blamed the rocket strike on the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which denied the claim.

A statement released by the Israeli military said the rockets that hit the upper Galilee region “were launched from the Syrian Golan Heights… by Islamic Jihad, sponsored by Iran”.

The statement went on to say that Israel “holds the Syrian government responsible for attacks emanating from Syria”.

Islamic Jihad had previously threatened reprisals should one of its activists in Israeli detention, Mohammed Allan, die of a hunger strike, but Mr Allan called off his fast on Wednesday after an Israeli court suspended his detention.

Mr Allan is believed to have suffered brain damage after going 65 days without food.” [emphasis added]

The inclusion of the description of Mohammed Allan as “one of its activists” is particularly notable given that the BBC has previously told audiences in two reports (including the link provided) that his affiliation with the terror organization is only “alleged”. The article continues with amplification of PIJ propaganda and a remarkable insinuation:

“Islamic Jihad’s leaders are based in the Syrian capital. Dawoud Shehab, a spokesman for the group who is based in Gaza, denied it had fired on Israel.

“Israel is trying to divert attention from the defeat that it suffered in the face of the determination of the hero prisoner, Mohammed Allan,” Shehab told Reuters.

Islamic Jihad has publicly acknowledged receiving support from Iran, a connection Israel has sought to highlight as it campaigns against the proposed US deal with Iran.” [emphasis added]

In other words, readers are encouraged to view Israeli army statements on this incident as being influenced or dictated by the Israeli government’s stance on the P5+1 (not “US” as stated here) deal with Iran known as the JCPOA.

It is not clarified to readers that the cross-border attack was launched from one of the few areas along the Syrian border with Israel that are still held by the Assad regime – which is of course heavily dependent upon Iran and its proxies at present – and the obviously relevant context of prior Iranian and Iranian-backed activity along that border is absent from this report.

Towards the end of the article readers find more evidence of the BBC’s geographically challenged reporting, tortured phrasing and predictable whitewashing of an internationally recognized terror organization.

“The stretch of border involved in the exchange has been largely quiet since the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.”

A “border” was obviously not “involved in the exchange”: borders do not fire missiles at civilians. Neither is it clear to which border the BBC refers – the Israel-Lebanon border as implied by its reference to the 2006 war or the Israel-Syria border across which these latest missiles were actually fired but where there was no fighting during the 2006 war.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘guerilla’ as follows:

“A member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces.”

Hizballah does not confine its activities to attacks on the Israeli military and it is certainly not independent – as evidenced by its Iranian patronage.

The article closes with the following statement:

“Israel captured the western Golan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, a move not recognised internationally.”

The context of why that war began and the obviously relevant history of the pre-1967 Syrian attacks on Israeli villages in the Galilee Panhandle and elsewhere which made it necessary for Israel to take the Golan Heights are not included in that partisan account.

So did readers of this article really get the “reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth” which would enhance their understanding of this incident and its wider implications? Hardly – and as long as the BBC continues to whitewash Iranian backed terrorist organisations and the ideology underpinning them, that will remain the case.

Confusing BBC reporting on Golan Heights terror incident

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 27th found the following curiously punctuated headline:

Golan incident on HP

Those who clicked on the link to the report itself were greeted with no less ambiguous punctuation, which must have left audiences wondering if the BBC was in doubt about the people killed having really been ‘militants’ or whether it wasn’t sure that they were actually dead. Similar qualifying punctuation – intended to communicate to readers that the BBC distances itself from statements made and/or terminology used – was seen in the body of the report and in the caption to its illustrative photograph.Golan incident report

So what were BBC audiences told about the incident which took place at around 21:30 on April 26th?

“An Israeli air strike has killed four militants armed with a bomb along the Israeli-Syrian frontier in the Golan Heights, the Israeli military has said.

A spokesperson said “terrorists” had been planning an imminent attack on Israeli troops, and that the Israeli air force had “neutralised” the threat.

Military sources said the militants were spotted placing explosives on a fence near Majdal Shams on Sunday.

The militants were not identified, and it is not clear if they were Syrians. […]

In Sunday’s incident, Israeli troops observing the demilitarised zone between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syria noticed four figures reportedly trying to place an explosive device on the fence along the frontier.

An Israeli air force plane was scrambled and fired a missile at the militants, killing them all.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson said on Twitter there was no doubt that they had been “en route to [an] imminent attack on our forces”.”

In addition to the fact that – contrary to the BBC’s claim – the terrorists have apparently been identified by pro-Assad activists and others as Syrians and a Hizballah-linked group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the report crucially fails to clarify to readers that the incident took place in Israeli territory.

“The incident, which occurred at 9:30 p.m. on the northern Golan Heights near Majdal Shams, began when Combat Intelligence Collection units identified four suspects planting the explosives on the eastern side of the border fence, within Israeli territory. […]

“The incident is fairly local, and is under control,” the source said.

He stressed that although the terrorists infiltrated into Israel, they did not cross the 110-km. border fence, which is within Israeli territory.”

With none of the necessary background and context provided, the report states:

“In January, an Iranian Republican Guards general and at least six fighters from the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah were killed in an Israeli air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights.”

Part of this article is devoted to other incidents in the wider region.

“Hours later, missile batteries operated by Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the Qalamoun Mountains, near the border between Syria and Lebanon, were reportedly attacked.

Al-Jazeera attributed the strike to the Israeli military, but Israeli media quoted sources as denying the report.

A source in the Israeli defence establishment told Haaretz that there had been fighting in the area between Syrian government forces and jihadist militants from al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Israel had no interest in getting involved in the conflict between the two sides, he added.

The IDF spokesperson’s office would neither confirm nor deny the report.

Arab media also reported on Friday night that Israeli jets had attacked Syrian army bases in the Qalamoun Mountains where Hezbollah stored long-range missiles.”

Beyond repeating the unconfirmed claims made in assorted reports from Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the BBC has no concrete information to provide to its audiences. Notably, no effort is made to clarify to readers that the fighting in the Qalamoun area is a fact rather than just something said by an Israeli “source” and only those who clicked on the link to Ha’aretz (and got past the pay wall) would have come across the following information contradicting the Al Jazeera claims which the BBC chose to amplify.

“Factions in the Syrian opposition said on social media that they have four units stationed in the Qalamoun region, and claimed that they were responsible for the attack on the Syrian missile base. The opposition units fired some 30 Grad rockets at the base, they said.”

Of course many members of the “Arab media” in the region indulge in agenda-based reporting and the Qatari outlet Al Jazeera is a prime example of that phenomenon. Before amplifying unverified claims, the BBC would obviously do well to bear in mind that some of the governments behind various “Arab media” outlets also play a role in supporting assorted factions involved in the Syrian civil war.

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