Sniper attack on Gaza Strip border fails to make BBC news in English but reported in Arabic

At around 11 a.m. on December 24th a sniper in the Gaza Strip opened fire at IDF troops on the Israeli side of the border fence near Kissufim and a soldier from the Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion sustained severe chest injuries.

IDF forces responded to the attack.

“Palestinians said that the commander of Hamas’s surveillance unit in the area was killed in the IDF response, Israel Radio reported. Hamas fighters were abandoning positions across the Strip, the report said.

Medical sources said Tayseer al-Ismary, 33, died after being hit by a bullet fired by the IDF, while Hamas sources confirmed he was a member of the movement’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.”

Despite BBC staff being aware of this latest breach of the August ceasefire agreement by Palestinian terrorists, it was not reported on the BBC News website either on December 24th or 25th.

Kissufim attack Shuval tweet

The story did, however, appear on BBC Arabic television and on the BBC Arabic website where Rushdi Abualouf’s filmed report was presented under the obviously problematic ‘last-first’ title “Palestinian shot dead by Israeli army near Khan Younis”.

Kissufim attack BBC Arabic report


Four BBC video reports and a funeral

Taking a look at yesterday’s BBC News reports from Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison on the subject of the intense barrage of rocket fire experienced by civilians in southern Israel on October 23rd and 24th 2012 (which the BBC did not begin reporting until the second day), we find that all the items lead with similar headlines. 

In chronological order, we first have “Gaza militants killed in strikes following rocket fire”  – a report appearing on the BBC News website which includes both written ‘analysis’ and a video report from Jon Donnison in which he is still promoting the notion that it is  “unusual” for Hamas to be taking part in rocket attacks. 

The second report, also titled in the same way, is a video report which seems to have appeared on television news. It includes footage of some of the damage caused by the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, including a wrongly titled shot of the chicken house in Kibbutz Kissufim where two farm workers sustained critical injuries. 

According to Donnison:

“As ever, civilians are caught up in the violence”

What he neglects to mention, however, is that in the case of Israeli civilians, they are actually the intended targets of rockets fired by Hamas and other terrorist organisations, rather than unfortunate bystanders. 

Donnison informs his viewers that:

“This is a reminder that the ongoing conflict has not gone away”

(Does he really believe that anyone thought it had?)

He goes on to talk about the peace process, saying “Gaza and Hamas are not even part of those negotiations”, but fails to enlighten his viewers as to why that is the case. 

The third report, entitled “Palestinian militants killed in Israeli airstrikes are buried” is also a video report which was apparently broadcast on BBC news programmes in the UK. It contains the same spoken material as the two video reports above, with Donnison once again pushing the idea that it is “unusual” for Hamas to be firing rockets, but the brief footage of Israel appearing in this film is not labelled at all – which would make it very difficult for most viewers to understand what they were watching. 

The fourth and final report – which also apparently appeared on news broadcasts – is entitled “Gaza militants buried after air strikes” and shows comparatively extensive footage of Hamas funerals in Gaza. It also includes an interview with an unnamed Hamas representative who – entirely unchallenged by Donnison – bizarrely accuses Israel of wanting to “disrupt the atmosphere ahead of Eid” and suggests that Israeli military operations targeting terrorists firing rockets at Israeli civilians are some sort of election ploy. 

Against a background of an unlabelled picture of damage to an Israeli home, Donnison informs viewers that “Its [Israel’s] military power is far superior”, later going on to assert that “At some point there will be more Israeli air strikes, more Palestinian rockets”.

This last statement is typical of both the kind of equivalence which Donnison tries to convey in all his above reports and his avoidance of telling audiences the hard facts: if there are no more Palestinian rockets and terror attacks, then there will be no Israeli airstrikes against terror cells. 

From a visual point of view, readers will no doubt notice that – as is so often the case in BBC coverage – in all the above video reports produced by Donnison and his team in Gaza, one sees Palestinian people – men, women and children. In contrast, the footage of Israel shows only buildings, with an occasional soldier, police official or politician in the frame, but no civilians whatsoever.  

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have spent two nights and a day in air raid shelters (yet again) but the BBC apparently did not consider it necessary to include any footage of that. 

IDF briefing on intense rocket fire on southern Israel

Earlier, I took part in a briefing with Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich of the IDF Spokesman’s unit regarding the intensified rocket fire upon the south of Israel over the past few hours, which the BBC has reported under the headline “Militants killed in Gaza strikes”. 

Lt. Col. Leibovich reported that 68 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip in the past twelve hours. Two foreign nationals – farm workers from the Kissufim area – were critically wounded by rocket fire and three or four additional civilians are suffering from lighter injuries. Several homes have been damaged. 

Scene of the rocket attack which critically injured two farm workers. Photo credit: IDF blog, 24/10/2012

Lt. Col. Leibovich also gave details of the IDF’s responses to the rocket attacks:

At midnight last night the IDF targeted a rocket-launching squad comprised of three Hamas terrorists.

At 5 a.m. this morning the IDF targeted another squad which had just launched a rocket.

At 7 a.m. the IDF targeted a rocket launching site – one of the pits dug by the terrorists in which the rocket-launcher is placed.

At 8:20 a.m. the IDF targeted a weapons smuggling tunnel and other sites in the northern Gaza Strip. 

Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system has successfully intercepted 7 additional rockets.

The Home Front Command has ordered all civilians in the region to stay near their air-raid shelters and safe rooms as, due to their proximity to the Gaza Strip, they have only 15 seconds in which to find cover. All schools and kindergartens in the area are closed. 

Lt. Col. Leibovich stressed that all the targets of today’s rocket fire were, once again, civilian targets including small agricultural communities. She also noted that the majority of the rocket fire took place – as is frequently the case – during the early morning when children are on their way to school and adults travelling to work.

I asked Lt. Col. Leibovich for her view of the claim frequently made by members of the Western media that Hamas is not interested in an escalation of the conflict. She described it as “not a reliable statement”.


BBC ignores Gaza border attack

Yesterday we reported on attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians in the vicinity of the border with the Gaza Strip which the BBC chose to report by headlining the IDF response to those attacks. 

This morning, an IDF officer was critically wounded in another attack on a routine patrol near the border fence in the area near Kissufim. 

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the attack.

As yet, there has been no response from the IDF.

There has also been no mention of the attack on the Middle East page of the BBC News website.

Could there be a connection between those two facts?