Themes in BBC reporting on events in Shuja’iya

The fierce fighting between the IDF and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shuja’iya on July 20th was the subject of a considerable number of BBC reports across various platforms. In this post we will look at some of the themes those reports promote.Shujaiya missile launches

“Massacre”

Whilst all BBC journalists avoided direct use of the word ‘massacre’ themselves, they repeatedly promoted that inaccurate and of course emotive description when it could be attributed to a third party. [all emphasis added]

On July 20th the BBC News website opened a ‘live’ page titled “As it happened: Gaza conflict intensifies“. That page opens:

“Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the conflict in Gaza. Sunday has seen the heaviest bombardment of Gaza since the Israeli offensive began. The Palestinian leadership has condemned as a massacre the killing of at least 60 people in one neighbourhood of Gaza, Shejaiya.”

A written report which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 20th titled “Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict” states in its second paragraph:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deaths in the Shejaiya district east of Gaza City were a “massacre”. Witnesses spoke of bodies lying in the streets.”

An audio report from July 20th by Lyse Doucet includes a doctor from Shifa hospital talking about “this massacre”.

The synopsis of a July 20th filmed report by Yolande Knell for BBC television news which also appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict” states:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the deaths in the Shejaiya district east of Gaza City as a “massacre”.”

Another written report from July 21st – titled “Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers, scores of Gazans killed” also states:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deaths in the Shejaiya district east of Gaza City were a “massacre”.”

An article from July 21st titled “Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500” states:

“More than 60 Palestinians alone were killed during heavy shelling in Shejaiya, in what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called “a massacre”.”

In a July 21st radio interview with the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’, a doctor from Shifa hospital is heard talking about “the massacre at Shuja’iya”.

No terrorists

Whilst frequent and ample description is given of IDF “shelling”, “bombardment” and “pounding”, any sort of information at all on the terrorists which the IDF was fighting in the Shuja’iya neighbourhood is extremely rare and any reporting on what those terrorists were doing or what sort of weapons they used is even rarer. That of course means that the overall impression given to BBC audiences – inaccurately and misleadingly – is that the IDF was attacking civilians when in fact those civilians were caught up in a battle between the Israeli army and Hamas’ heavily armed militia.

In a radio report by Paul Adams from July 20th the sound of shooting is accompanied by the following vague description by Adams:

“And there’s suddenly gunfire coming from several locations. Someone certainly isn’t observing this ceasefire.”

In a filmed report by Lyse Doucet which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza crisis: 87 Gazans and 13 Israeli soldiers killed” as well as being broadcast on BBC television news on July 20th, the only thing she has to say about the terrorists fighting a fierce battle in the area is:Doucet filmed 20 7 keeping watch

“We saw militants on these streets keeping watch”

And:

“Israeli soldiers have met fierce resistance here.”

In a July 20th filmed report for BBC television news which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict“, Yolande Knell made do with the following vague and brief description:

“There were some rockets that were fired near there and the fighting broke out again according to one of my colleagues who was at the scene”.

In a written report by Lyse Doucet from July 21st which appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza crisis: Shejaiya assault defines grimmest day” she writes:

“In Shejaiya we saw Hamas spotters taking up positions on empty streets, talking into telephones and walkie-talkies as they maintained a lookout.

Colleagues who arrived later in the day saw gunmen with black balaclavas and concealed weapons moving through the neighbourhood. And journalists and medics got caught in crossfire when a two-hour humanitarian truce was shattered in minutes.”

And:

“For many days now, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge had almost seemed to be a ghost war. In areas we were able to reach, Hamas fighters had only been visible by the rockets they fired, and through defiant messages on their TV and radio networks.”

Notably, no mention is made of the terrorists’ use of weapons beyond guns – such as RPGs and anti-tank missiles. Neither is any mention made of the practice of booby trapping houses or of secondary explosions resulting from strikes on buildings in which weapons and/or explosives are stored. Thus, BBC audiences are mistakenly led to believe that all civilian casualties in Shuja’iya are exclusively attributable to IDF fire, although the likelihood of that being the case is extremely low. And as for the Hamas terrorists? Well they just talk on the phone and wander around in balaclavas according to the BBC. 

No terrorist casualties

None of the numerous BBC reports makes any attempt whatsoever to determine how many of the casualties in Shuja’iya were Hamas combatants. In all the reports general figures are given and as has been the practice in the past, BBC audiences are not adequately informed of the fact that those figures come from Hamas sources or of the additional fact that the BBC has not independently verified those numbers.

Those omissions are particularly relevant in light of the instructions issued by the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, from which it is clear that there is an organized Hamas campaign to inflate the numbers of civilian casualties and conceal the number of dead combatants in order to influence public opinion abroad.

“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.”

Whether by accident, by design or by coercion, the BBC seems to be following the Hamas instructions closely, but of course it is actually the job of BBC journalists to cut through a terrorist organisation’s propaganda and bring the real picture to audiences. With regard to the all-important topic of combatant casualties, the BBC has come nowhere near to meeting that objective.

Some examples of typical reporting on casualties in Shuja’iya include:

“At least 87 Gazans were reported killed on Sunday – 60 of them in the district of Shejaiya alone.” (synopsis to report by Lyse Doucet, July 20th)

“Over 500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began two weeks ago, Gaza’s health ministry says.” (BBC News website, July 21st)

“Gaza has suffered the highest death toll since Israel’s offensive began, with at least 87 people reported killed on Sunday – 67 of them in one area.” (synopsis to report by Yolande Knell, July 20th)

“Gaza has come under the most intense shelling since the launch of Israel’s offensive 13 days ago, with more than 50 people reported killed in one district. The deaths occurred at Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said.” (synopsis to report by Lyse Doucet, July 20th)

“Gaza’s list of the dead crossed 500 and keeps climbing, according to figures from the health ministry here. The UN says the vast majority are civilians; many are children.” (Lyse Doucet, July 21st)

We have of course addressed the topic of the sources of UN OCHA supplied casualty figures here previously and in addition, a UNICEF information officer informed BBC Watch that its own figures – collected independently – include anyone up to the age of eighteen in the category of children. Notably, according to the latest UNICEF figures from July 21st, the number of male casualties under 18 was well over double the number of female casualties.

Downplaying prior warning

As is well known, Israel gave the residents of Shuja’iya prior warning of the necessity to evacuate the neighbourhood four days before the operation and even delayed it in order to give them more time to organize their move. That fact is not mentioned in the vast majority of the reports on the subsequent events and the concurrent fact that Hamas instructed the residents to stay put and act as human shields is not conveyed to BBC audiences at all.

Leaflet distributed in Shuja'iya on July 16th

Leaflet distributed in Shuja’iya on July 16th

Lyse Doucet writes:

“Israel said it repeatedly warned residents to leave the area.

“We asked them to leave again and again,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told BBC Arabic TV.

“We called them up, we texted, and we sent them messages. But Hamas said ‘don’t leave’,” – a reference to allegations that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields.”

“Warning?” said Anas, a 20-year-old university student with a mop of curly black hair who stood on a street corner. “They don’t warn us, they kill us.”

Whenever we ask Gazans that question, they reply: “Where do we go?” “

The fierce fighting between the IDF and Hamas terrorists on July 20th in Shuja’iya undoubtedly included many tragic scenes which were the result of civilians who had been advised to evacuate being caught in the crossfire – and it is upon those scenes which BBC reporting has exclusively focused. Whilst that may make for ‘compelling’ television or ‘powerful’ radio, it does not necessarily give BBC audiences the background and context which they need in order to be able to understand the entire picture of what happened there and why. The BBC’s reporters currently on the ground in Gaza have so far failed to provide audiences with many if not most of the vital parts of that picture. 

 

 

 

 

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

As was noted here a few days ago, on July 15th the BBC’s Yolande Knell (perhaps inadvertently) documented the use of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City as a hideout for the Hamas top brass. Other journalists have reported on that topic too and of course the bottom line is that staff and patients of a civilian medical facility (as well as visiting journalists) are being exploited by a terrorist organisation as human shields, with or without the consent of that hospital’s management.Shifa hospital

In addition to the fact that the BBC has failed to adequately clarify the issue of human shields in Shifa hospital (or anywhere else) to audiences – numerous items of BBC content have been produced in that hospital over the past two weeks – obviously with the approval of its management – and various doctors have been interviewed, quoted and presented to BBC audiences as credible witnesses of the situation in Gaza. Examples include:

A BBC television news filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 8th.

Two filmed reports by Jeremy Bowen for BBC television news on July 11th.

A BBC World Service radio report by Lyse Doucet on July 20th in which a doctor promoted the unchallenged notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

A BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ interview with Dr Belal Dabour on July 21st which also allows unhindered promotion of the notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

Perhaps rather surprisingly in the current circumstances, Dr Dabour seems to have quite a bit of spare time in which to talk to the BBC – see for example here and here.

Now of course BBC audiences hearing, reading or watching an interview with a doctor will naturally presume that they are being given an accurate, impartial, apolitical and professionally neutral view of the situation. In the Gaza Strip, however, that is not necessarily the case – as has been documented by the ‘Warped Mirror’ blog here and here. And it is particularly not the case in Shifa hospital where, on July 20th, a journalist with ABC witnessed the following reaction from ‘humanitarian’ staff to the false claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Tweet Doctors Shifa

But it is not only local doctors in the Gaza Strip whose presentation of supposedly professional observations – in fact underpinned by political motives – are facilitated by the BBC. On July 20th the BBC reached what is unfortunately not a new low by promoting and quoting none other than the infamous Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert in inserts by Yolande Knell featured in two separate written articles – see here and here.

Knell Mads Gilbert

Readers may recall Gilbert’s propaganda efforts during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. Now the doctor who thinks the 9/11 terror attacks were justified is back in Shifa hospital, promoting the same political messaging to the media under the guise of a ‘medical opinion’ – remarkably and controversially, with recommendation from another source of ‘impartial’ information frequently promoted by the BBC – UNWRA.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

So far, in nearly two weeks of reporting, we have not seen even one attempt by the BBC’s journalists in Gaza to adhere to those guidelines by alerting audiences to the Hamas connections and/or sympathy for terrorism of medical personnel they present to audiences as ‘credible’ sources.  

BBC omits vital context in reporting from Shuja’iya

Today, July 20th, there has been heavy fighting in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shuja’iya. As was noted here yesterday in relation to a BBC article about that neighbourhood, its residents received notification via leaflets, telephone calls and announcements in the Arabic media that evacuation was advised four days previously on July 16and operations were even delayed in order to allow more civilians to organize their evacuation. 

With Hamas’ propaganda department already trying to persuade the world of a “massacre” of civilians in Shuja’iya, one can only hope that BBC correspondents on the ground will have the good sense to remember how their colleagues unquestioningly reported similar claims in Jenin twelve years ago without bothering to check facts first.

The reporting which has appeared on the BBC News website so far includes an evolving article now titled “Gaza shelling by Israel ‘most intense’, dozens reported killed“.  That report once again repeatedly cites casualty figures for which there is no evidence to suggest the BBC has independent verification and – as has been the case in all the BBC’s reporting so far – no effort is made to inform audiences of the sources of those figures and their questionable reliability.Shujaiya art

“Palestinian officials say that 395 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel launched its operation […]

Gaza has come under the most intense shelling since the launch of Israel’s offensive, with more than 40 people reported killed in one area overnight.

The deaths occurred in Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said. Eyewitnesses spoke of bodies lying in the streets. […]

But the death toll continued to rise at the weekend, with the number of Palestinians killed now 395 since the operation began, according to Palestinian health officials.

The majority of those killed are civilians, the UN says. […]

More than 40 people died in the north-eastern district of Shejaiya in a heavy bombardment overnight, the Palestinian medics said.”

As we see, yet again no effort is made by the BBC to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties.

Much of this article is devoted to descriptions of fleeing civilians, as were Tweets posted by BBC correspondents on July 20th – see for example here, here, here, and here. If the BBC has made any attempt to determine whether those civilians did not evacuate the neighbourhood previously when warnings were originally given because of Hamas orders to stay put, those efforts are not apparent in this article, but of course BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip over the past thirteen days has systematically ignored the issue of the use of the local population as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organisations.

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell, in Gaza City, says there have been scenes of panic with thousands of residents fleeing the area – on foot or piling into the backs of cars.”

“At the scene: Paul Adams in Shejaiya

When we arrived at the edge of the neighbourhood, Palestinians were still fleeing in their hundreds: carrying nothing but their children, some pausing to vent their anger in front of cameras.

They spoke of bodies lying in the street and the wreckage of buildings, including a mosque.

After a night of ferocious bombardment, they seem traumatised and stunned. For three days, Israel had warned them to leave their homes, but Shejaiya is home to 80,000 people. Most stayed put, not expecting the ferocity of last night’s bombardment.

One man, his eyes glassy, said his father had been killed. He didn’t know where other family members were or even if they were alive.

An elderly woman, in traditional Palestinian costume, raised her arms to the sky and asked how God could let this happen.

A handicapped girl winced as she was lifted into the back of a pickup truck.

And all the time, more and more civilians emerged from Shejaiya.”

However, explanations to BBC audiences as to why the IDF needs to operate in Shuja’iya were limited to a generalised photo caption reading “The Israeli military says the ground offensive has been expanded to destroy a Hamas tunnel network” and the following statements in the body of the text:

Leaflet distributed in Shuja'iya on July 16th

Leaflet distributed in Shuja’iya on July 16th

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent ground troops into Gaza on Thursday after 10 days of heavy air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel says the ground operation is necessary to target Hamas tunnel networks, which it says it could not do from the air alone.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed on Saturday during a gunfight with Palestinian militants who had used tunnels to cross into Israel to launch an attack, the IDF said.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said the ground offensive was being expanded “to restore security and stability to Israel’s residents and citizens”.”

No attempt is made to clarify to readers that as well as being a significant site of Hamas command centres, weapons storage, missile manufacturing facilities and the launch site of some 140 missiles fired at Israeli civilians since the beginning of the current operation alone, Shuja’iya neighbourhood also houses the entrance to some ten of the tunnels that the BBC has so far avoided adequately informing audiences about.

IDF field hospital Gaza

IDF field hospital on the Gaza border to open on the evening of July 20th

Notably too, the BBC is very coy about clarifying to readers that Hamas opened fire at Israeli troops in the vicinity of Wafa hospital in Shuja’iya during the two-hour humanitarian hiatus (later extended by one hour) it had requested.

“A few hours later, it agreed to a two-hour humanitarian truce in Shejaiya.

The ceasefire would last from 13:30 to 15:30 local time (10:30-12:30 GMT), an Israeli military spokesman said.

But a BBC team on the ground reported an exchange of fire less than an hour after the truce began.”

So whilst BBC audiences are provided with unverified casualty numbers and emotive reporting on the topic of fleeing civilians, they have not yet been provided with the all-important context of the reasons for the need for military action in Shuja’iya and they have still not been provided with an adequate overview of the topic of Hamas’ tunnel network,  the threat it poses to Israeli civilians and the reasons why the existence of those tunnels makes a ground operation necessary.

This article currently concludes with the following sentence:

“Hamas rejected an Egypt-brokered ceasefire last week, saying any deal with Israel must include an end to a blockade of Gaza.”

That conclusion fails to adequately clarify to BBC audiences that the suffering of civilians in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided in the first place or brought to an end almost a week ago, but that Hamas chose otherwise. 

 

About those Gaza Health Ministry casualty figures cited by the BBC…

Despite the plethora of BBC reporters currently on the ground in the Gaza Strip, BBC audiences have not been informed that at least four summary executions of ‘collaborators’ by Hamas have apparently taken place since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge and at least thirteen other people have been arrested.Question Mark

Likewise, BBC audiences have not been informed of reports of Hamas militiamen attacking and injuring Fatah supporters.

Seeing as almost every item of BBC content cites casualty figures provided directly or indirectly by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza, perhaps next time Yolande Knell, Lyse Doucet or Paul Adams gives them a call to ask for updates, they could ask whether or not those statistics include people killed and injured by the terror organization whose figures they unquestioningly quote and promote.

And whilst they’re at it, they could also enquire with regard to the results of two separate analyses of casualties in the Gaza Strip (here and here) which both show that a disproportionate number of the casualties to date are males of combatant age. 

After all, BBC audiences have the right to know. 

BBC’s Knell dumbs down the Gaza Strip economic situation (spoiler: it’s Israel’s fault)

A filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 15th which was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “‘Essentials, not luxuries’ being bought in Gaza” as well as being broadcast on BBC television news provides an interesting example of how the framing of a story can actively prevent audiences from properly understanding an issue.Knell 15 7 market Gaza

Knell reports from a market in Gaza City.

“This is how most of the shops look all around Gaza City. They’re completely closed up because of the ongoing fighting. But the main market here is still open and this is the busiest time of the day, although business has really been down over the past week. Abu Ahab has had a stall here in the market for the past five years. He’s selling dates, which are really popular at this time during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Abu Ahab – how is business?”

Stallholder: “The situation this year is different because of the war. Those who come here shopping come only for the essentials – not for the luxuries. Instead of taking [a] kilo of dates they take half a kilo. Why? Because some people haven’t been paid, because of the blockade and there is a war at the same time. People have no money. The war is terrifying them. They are selling their possessions so they can buy food for Ramadan.”

Knell: “Already, the economic situation in Gaza is very tough because of the tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt. That means there’s very little industry and there’s high unemployment. Recently – to make matters worse – there’s been no money to pay the Hamas government employees and that dispute has led to banks being closed and a shortage of cash for everyone.”

As we see, audiences are encouraged to believe that the difficult economic situation in the Gaza Strip is primarily – if not exclusively – attributable not to the ineptitude of the Hamas government which ruled it for the last seven years and not to that organisation’s decision to divert resources into terrorism rather than building a sustainable economy and a healthy civil society, but to Israeli and Egyptian policies enacted in order to cope with that terrorism.

This, of course, is the topsy-turvy line which Knell has been pushing for some time now – as we have documented here in the past (see examples here, here and here). The phrase “tight border restrictions” is frequently used by Knell and other BBC employees without any adequate explanation of what that actually means.

In fact the only restrictions in place are those prohibiting the import of weapons (as, one imagines, is the case at most international borders) and dual-use goods which can be used for military purposes to the Gaza Strip. Even those dual-use goods can be imported into the Gaza Strip with special co-ordination and on condition that their use is supervised. All other goods can enter the Gaza Strip from Israel freely.

Notably, neither Knell nor any other BBC journalist has in the ten days since the conflict began seen fit to inform audiences that humanitarian aid has continued to be supplied to the Gaza Strip throughout the entire time.

But Knell’s final sentence is particularly interesting – especially because of what it does not tell viewers.

“Recently – to make matters worse – there’s been no money to pay the Hamas government employees and that dispute has led to banks being closed and a shortage of cash for everyone.”

Banks in the Gaza Strip were indeed closed for six days at the beginning of June but Knell neglects to inform audiences why and the BBC did not report on the topic at the time.

“Banks in the Gaza Strip reopened Wednesday, after being closed for six days following a cash-run on the banks by Palestinian civil servants demanding unpaid salaries, Palestinian media reported.

The payment crisis sparked a severe public dispute between Fatah and Hamas, just days after the establishment of the new technocratic unity government. Hamas claimed that the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should pay the salaries, while the PA rejected the demand. […]

Jihad al-Wazir, head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the Palestinians’ central bank, said “All automatic telling machines at bank branches in the Gaza Strip are working again today.” 

Hamas forces withdrew from outside banks, where they had been preventing the use of ATMs. [….]

Hamas demanded Thursday that the Palestinian Authority take employees of the disbanded Gaza government onto its payroll, after the PA’s Gaza-based staff received their salaries but their Hamas counterparts went empty-handed.

After scuffles broke out at ATMs, Hamas security forces closed the banks.”

So in other words, the banks were closed because the Hamas private militia closed them because the Palestinian unity government to which it is party and which it agreed would rule the Gaza Strip instead of Hamas wouldn’t do what Hamas wanted.

Now doesn’t that sound rather different to the version of the story Yolande Knell is telling BBC audiences? But the really important part of Knell’s omissions in this report and others in relation to the current situation is that one of the conditions presented by Hamas for a ceasefire to end the current round of conflict is that the PA pay these people (some of whom are employees of Hamas’ Izz ad Din al Qassam Brigades) anyway. So far, the BBC has failed completely to inform BBC audiences of any of Hamas’ demands which are not related to Israel.

Another interesting point to note is that whilst the BBC took a distinctly ‘best thing since sliced bread’ approach to the Hamas-Fatah unity deal at the time, since the upsurge in hostilities it has been remarkably reticent about clarifying to BBC audiences the significance of the fact that officially, the Palestinian Authority is in charge of the Gaza Strip – from which well over a thousand missiles have been fired at Israeli civilians in just over a week – in clear breach of existing agreements between the PA and Israel.

“…Hamas has officially renounced its responsibility for governing Gaza, while the Palestinian unity government has already begun the process of taking over the administration of Gaza. Over a week ago (July 5/6), a senior Hamas official, Ahmad Yousef, was “asked about increased rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks” in an interview with Palestinian news agency Ma’an. His answer: “From a political point of view, (Prime Minister) Rami Hamdallah is responsible and he can give orders to security services to intervene. Hamas is not ruling the Gaza Strip and so it’s not responsible for protecting borders”.”

Now of course all that is a lot more of a headache to explain to BBC audiences than ‘(some) people in Gaza are poor because of Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions’, but if the BBC is to meet its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”, it is going to have to stop dumbing down its reporting and start providing them with the entire picture instead of inaccurate politically motivated sound-bites.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell inaccurately attributes shortage of medical supplies in Gaza to Israel

BBC films Hamas human shields policy in action: fails to explain to audiences

Yolande Knell’s filmed report from July 15th was broadcast on BBC television news programmes as well as being posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinians reject Gaza ceasefire proposal“.

That report includes some interesting items, one of which is the image below which clearly shows missiles being fired by terrorists from built-up residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

Knell report 15 7 pic missiles being fired

Knell fails to inform viewers that both the storage of missiles and the launching of such attacks from a residential area contravene international conventions.

Article 58: ” The Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible:

(a)…endeavor to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives; 
(b) Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”

In addition, Knell tells viewers: [emphasis added]Knell report 15 7 ceasefire

“But overnight, diplomatic efforts to end the two-way violence gathered pace. This was an Arab League meeting in Cairo. Egypt – a key player – set a time for a ceasefire and offered to mediate a longer-term deal. Israel accepted the offer but the main Palestinian factions in Gaza did not.

We’re here at the main hospital in Gaza City. This is one of the few locations where Hamas officials feel they’re safe enough from a possible Israeli attack to come out and speak to the media. Already they’ve told us that they reject Egypt’s proposed ceasefire deal.”

The report then cuts to an interview with Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

The main hospital in Gaza City is of course Shifa hospital, from which both Knell and Jeremy Bowen have reported in recent days. The fact that the Hamas leadership is once again hiding in Shifa hospital because it knows that Israel will not strike a hospital means that both patients and medical personnel are being used as human shields, but Knell fails to point that fact out to viewers.

 Article 12(4): “Under no circumstances shall medical units be used in an attempt to shield military objectives from attack. Whenever possible, the Parties to the conflict shall ensure that medical units are so sited that attacks against military objectives do not imperil their safety.”

Whilst the BBC has been very trigger-happy with its amplification of unproven Palestinian accusations of Israeli wrongdoing (see some examples here, here and here), it has been remarkably and uniformly consistent in its failure to provide any explanation to audiences regarding the Hamas policy of using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields – even when it observes and films that policy in action itself.  

BBC World Service gives inaccurate report on the ceasefire that wasn’t

As readers are no doubt already aware, the ‘ceasefire’ of July 15th lasted a mere six hours due to the fact that terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip did not cease their fire of missiles into Israel.

However, a BBC World Service radio programme – BBC World Update: Daily Commute – which was broadcast at 05:30 US Eastern time (12:30 Israel time) on July 15th – i.e. three and a half hours after the ceasefire supposedly came into effect, – gives some interesting indications regarding the BBC’s already emerging framing of the topic of the ceasefire.WS Daily Commute

The programme (available here as a podcast for a limited period of time) is presented by Dan Damon who opens by saying: [all emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in original]

“Coming up: the Israeli security cabinet has accepted a ceasefire proposal by Egypt but the armed wing of Hamas in Gaza rejects that. Where does that leave the current strife?”

A newsreader then tells listeners:

“The Israeli security cabinet has approved an Egyptian proposal for a truce in its week-long conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza. Almost 200 Palestinians have been killed in the latest conflict, many of them civilians.”

The news bulletin then moves on to an interview with James Reynolds in Tel Aviv, after which the newsreader introduces Yolande Knell.

Knell: “The military wing of Hamas has said that the terms being offered by the Egyptians would amount to a surrender and is continuing to insist on its own conditions which include the release of Hamas activists from Israeli jails and also an opening of the border crossings between the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt. That said, we have to say on the ground here, what we have seen over the past few hours is certainly a much lower intensity of fighting.”

The programme then returns to Dan Damon.

“…this morning some glimmers that an end to the violence that has claimed almost 200 Palestinian lives in the past week might be at an end. The Israeli security cabinet this morning agreed an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire. Let’s talk to Kevin Connolly, our correspondent in Jerusalem. It’s reported, Kevin, that Hamas rejected that proposal and I think there’s been further development.”

Kevin Connolly: “Well what we have here at the moment is half a ceasefire in the sense that Israel has accepted it. Hamas for the time being has not and the military wing of Hamas in Gaza has really been talking down the proposal from Egypt which is on the table. Now that’s not to say that Hamas won’t eventually be talked round by the Egyptians but for the moment, as I say, we have half a ceasefire.”

DD: “And it’s difficult, I guess, to understand completely what the mood is inside the Palestinian territories where you are but surely after nearly 200 deaths on one side and…eh…some injuries on the Israeli side, the people inside Gaza must be desperate for some kind of a ceasefire.”

KC: “I haven’t the slightest doubt that Palestinian civilians in Gaza – we talk to our people there every day, of course – are desperate for an end to the suffering and destruction. Hospitals there are struggling to treat the injured, many people are homeless, people are – you know – living in terrifying circumstances. Nothing is more terrifying than being bombed from the air. But politically of course, Hamas also has an agenda here. Having embarked on this round of hostilities, I think it is going to feel that it can’t emerge from them without some kind of political victory to show its people, so something is going to have to be found to allow Hamas an elegant way out, if you like, of the fighting.”

DD: “And what would be called a victory? What would be a victory from Hamas’ point of view?”

KC: “Well it’s given us quite a long list of demands. One of the things it would like – which is unlikely, I think – is to see Israel releasing Hamas prisoners, some of whom have been rounded up over the last couple of weeks. But a more important strategic goal for Hamas and one which would help its standing with the Palestinian people in Gaza is some kind of easing of the economic restrictions which are jointly imposed on the enclave by Israel and by Egypt. The new Egyptian government in particular has been very tough with Hamas – which it sees as an offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood – so it’s closed the smuggling tunnels which were a kind of economic lifeline both for Hamas and for the people of Gaza. That is one area where there’s a bit of scope for Egypt to offer Hamas something in return at least for coming to the table. I think what the Egyptians tried to do is sequence all of this so that you begin with a cessation of hostilities then you start to talk about things like prisoner releases or an easing of economic conditions. So, talking is going on we think between Egypt and Hamas. The Egyptians do have cards to play there, so the situation as it stands where Israel has accepted and Hamas has rejected – that could change. There has been a bit of rocket fire today from Hamas – or from the Gaza militants anyway – towards Israel at a relatively low level of intensity and no response yet from Israel so, it feels as though a diplomatic game is underway and success is not guaranteed.”

Let’s look at that last part first. After having spent the entire item telling listeners about “half a ceasefire” but failing to clarify what that really means in practical terms, Connolly in his last sentence finally informs them of “a bit of rocket fire …towards Israel” (not at it) at a “relatively low intensity”.

In fact, between 09:00 and 12:30 local time (when this programme was broadcast) over 22 missiles had already been fired at the Eshkol region, Ashkelon, Sderot, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Be’er Tuvia, Netivot, Rehovot and Nes Ziona. One of those missiles landed in the yard of a house in Ashdod and one person was injured in Sderot. Three minutes after this programme went on air, missiles were also fired at Haifa, Daliyat al Carmel and the Carmel and Zichron Ya’akov areas. All in all, between 09:00 and 15:00 local time, fifty missiles were fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. By no possible interpretation of the word is that a “bit” of rocket fire.

Notable too is of course Knell’s description of convicted terrorists – including those freed in prisoner release deals – as “Hamas activists”, the fact that at no point in this broadcast are listeners reminded that Hamas is an internationally designated terrorist organization, Connolly’s bizarre reference to Hamas being “seen” as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Damon’s description of Kevin Connolly’s location as “the Palestinian territories” even though he was in Jerusalem.

Likewise, it is remarkable that both Knell and Connolly chose to highlight the same two issues from Hamas’ pre-existing list of demands – ignoring no less significant other ones such as the demand for the Palestinian Authority to transfer money to pay Hamas employees and the demand that parties unnamed “stop interfering in the new unity government”. Whilst Knell and Connolly focus on what he terms “economic restrictions”, neither of them bother to clarify to listeners that Egypt’s actions against the smuggling tunnels came as part of its crackdown on Jihadist terror in northern Sinai and that Israel’s measures are aimed at preventing the entry of weapons into the Gaza Strip will obviously be just as relevant in the future as this round of conflict has proved they were in the past.

Most significant, however, is the fact that by the time this programme began at 12:30 local time, the ceasefire had been rejected by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad  and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade took responsibility for some of the missile fire during the supposed ceasefire.  Most importantly, Hamas – not just its “military wing” as claimed several times in this programme – had already rejected the ceasefire via its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

“In an early-morning meeting, Israel’s security cabinet approved the cease-fire, which calls for a de-escalation of fighting by both sides starting at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday, with hostilities ending within 12 hours.

At a news conference at a hospital in Gaza City, a Hamas official said his group wouldn’t observe the cease-fire terms proposed by the Egyptian government because no one had conferred with them.

“We don’t like the policy pushing us into a corner,” said spokesman Samy Abu Zohry. Hamas was fighting for Palestinians, not a cease-fire, he said.”

It will be worth keeping an eye on additional BBC reporting on the topic of the ceasefire-that-wasn’t in order to note if it is reported in a similarly inaccurate and misleading fashion, downplaying both Hamas rejection of the opportunity for a halt to hostilities and missile attacks on Israeli civilians. 

BBC continues to promote theme of “homemade” rockets

One of the themes we have seen being recycled in BBC reporting of Operation Protective Edge is that of the description of the missile arsenals of Gaza Strip-based terrorist organisations as “homemade rockets”.Knell 14 7 homemade rockets

Just a few examples of that practice can be seen in the following reports.

In an article titled “Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 11th, Kevin Connolly stated:

“To the outside world the Gaza rockets may seem ineffective – partly because many are homemade and partly because they’re hopelessly overmatched by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

And

“Lots of the rockets in Gaza are workshop weapons. What if Israel staged a huge operation, left declaring it a success and then found home-made rockets raining down a week or a month later?”

An article titled “Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 12th included ‘analysis’ from Connolly in which he again stated:

“To the outside world the Gaza rockets may seem ineffective – partly because many are homemade and partly because they’re hopelessly overmatched by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 12th under the title “Israel to ‘resist international pressure’ over Gaza” includes that very same ‘analysis’ by Connolly.

In a filmed report produced by Yolande Knell on July 14th which appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East conflict: Palestinians flee Israeli air strikes” as well as having been broadcast on BBC television news’ GMT programme, Knell states:

“These pictures from Hamas militants are said to show homemade Palestinian rockets being fired at Tel Aviv.”

The remarkably uniform description of missiles with warheads of up to 60 kg as “homemade” is clearly not a matter of chance. The obvious intention is to steer audiences towards a view of these weapons as being crudely and simply made, with the implication that they are ineffective and do not present such a dangerous threat to Israeli civilians. Notably too, whilst BBC reporters take pains to promote the “homemade” theme, they have little if anything to say about the weaponry of Hamas and other terrorist organisations which is not locally produced and the fact that several terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip are supplied, funded and supported by Iran.

So what are the facts with regard to the missile stocks of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip?

According to Israeli military intelligence, of some 10,000 missiles located in the Gaza Strip, approximately 6,000 are in Hamas’ possession. The important fact that other armed terrorist groups are also in possession of military-grade weaponry is rarely adequately reported by the BBC.

Hamas arsenal

As we see, the amount of smuggled standard missiles outnumbers the locally produced ones, meaning that the BBC’s across-the-board description of Hamas missiles as “homemade” is both inaccurate and misleading. The same is the case with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s missile arsenal.

PIJ arsenal

It is also inaccurate and misleading to audiences when the BBC describes as “homemade” the products of what is in reality an organised industry which has already manufactured thousands of missiles and is funded by terrorist organisations – one of which is now party to the Palestinian unity government.

The deliberate use of the term “homemade” in relation to weapons which currently threaten the majority of Israel’s civilian population is not only inaccurate though: it also shows a clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality because its intention is to distort audiences’ views of the severity of the threat to that civilian population and thereby influence their overall view of the conflict. 

BBC fails again to report Hamas order to civilians to act as human shields

A written report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 13th under the title “Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes” opens with the following statement:

“Israel says it has warned residents in northern Gaza to evacuate as it prepares to launch fresh air strikes.”

In fact, Israel did not just ‘say’ it had warned residents to evacuate; it did warn them – by means of SMS and voice-mail messages, as well as with leaflets which – as other media organisations reported – were readily available in the public domain by the time the BBC published its article, including an English language translation.

warning IDF arabic

warning IDF english

A photograph illustrating the article also uses the ‘Israel said’ formula in its caption.

warning art pic

Readers have to continue until the report’s eighth paragraph in order to get a proper view of events.

“The military confirmed it had dropped leaflets over the city of Beit Lahiya on Sunday morning telling civilians to seek shelter.

“We do not wish to harm civilians in Gaza, but these civilians must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe,” the IDF said.

By 10:30am local time (07:30am GMT), more than 4,000 Gaza residents had taken refuge at eight bases of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, spokesman Chris Gunness said.”

However, this BBC report only tells half the story. No mention is made of the fact that a Hamas spokesman and the Palestinian Interior Ministry ordered the residents to go back to their homes (the original MoI statement, together with its Palestinian National Authority logo, can be seen here).

“The Hamas Interior Ministry released a statement titled “Urgent call to the residents of the Gaza Strip” in which locals were told to ignore the calls and warnings made by Israel and the IDF. “To all of our people who have evacuated their homes – return to them immediately and do not leave the house.”

 “You must follow the directives of the Interior Ministry. This is psychological warfare, random messages to instill panic in people.””

A filmed report on the same story by Yolande Knell was also broadcast on BBC television news and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes“. Knell tells viewers:warning Knell filmed

“This isn’t a family outing; it’s an exodus. Palestinians head away from their homes in northern Gaza and take their most prized belongings with them. Israel’s warning there’ll be a heavy bombardment of the border area where they live.

‘Look how many kids I have’ this man tells me ‘ We’re forced to leave. We’re not going to stay and be killed in our house’.

The Israelis broadcast their orders on TV and dropped leaflets. We’ve seen several Palestinian families like these clutching bags of their possessions and emergency supplies and heading south. The Israeli military has told them to evacuate their homes and there’s not much time left to get away. We find hundreds of Gazans coming inside a school for shelter. They’re exhausted and distressed.

Man: ‘I hope this will be end and we still alive and we go home and find our home as we left it’.”

Notably, Knell makes no effort to inform BBC audiences why those civilians were warned to leave the area. She fails to make any mention of the fact that the northern part of the Gaza Strip is used by terrorist organisations as a launching site for missiles. And she too refrains from informing viewers about the demand made by Hamas and the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior that those people to return to their homes and act as human shields for those terrorists.  

Clearly the deliberate omission of any mention of Hamas’ use of human shields in any of the BBC’s written and filmed reports means that audiences are being denied essential information necessary for them to form an informed opinion on this issue.  

What are the dominant themes appearing in BBC filmed reports from the Gaza Strip?

As Operation Protective Edge progresses, the BBC is increasingly putting the focus of its reporting on the subject of casualties in the Gaza Strip. Notably – although the figures quoted by the BBC come exclusively from Palestinian sources and primarily from the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health – reports have not taken the trouble to clarify to BBC audiences that neither the figures themselves nor the ratio of civilians to combatants has been independently verified by the BBC.Op PE Bowen 2 11 7

Since the entry of the first BBC foreign correspondent into the Gaza Strip on July 8th, viewers of BBC television news and visitors to the BBC News website have seen the following filmed reports among others.

July 8th:  

  • Promotion of the inaccurate claim that the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is the result of Israeli policy from Yolande Knell.

July 9th:

July 10th:

  • A report by Yolande Knell in which she amplifies claims made on Hamas-run local TV stations without informing audiences that they have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“…People really are extremely afraid. They’re just watching the local television news which is telling about the number of people killed here in Gaza since Tuesday morning mounting up, saying that most of those are civilians.” [emphasis added]

In the same report, Knell also amplifies an inaccurate claim of ‘collective punishment’ from what she describes as “human rights groups”, but fails to provide audiences with the names of those organisations so that they can verify the relevance and accuracy of such claims for themselves. In addition, she once more fails to inform audiences that the “homes” targeted also served as centres for terrorist activity.

“Israel has been following a policy of targeting the homes it says belong to militants here in Gaza. Because this is a very densely crowded place that often means that because residential areas are targeted, whole families are targeted and you have what’s been described by some human rights groups as collective punishment, but also just other civilians not involved in militant activity getting caught up in this.”

  • A filmed report by Kevin Connolly, the synopsis of which also quotes Hamas officials without informing readers that the information has not been independently verified by the BBC and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

“Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip say 78 people have been killed in Israeli attacks from the air and the sea this week.”

To his credit, Connolly mentions in that report some of the methods used by Israel to avoid civilian casualties (others include aborting missions and leafleting operational areas).

“Israel says its air-force tries hard to avoid civilian casualties. Before houses are bombed, warnings are telephoned to people inside and a dummy missile is fired before the real one: a so-called ‘knock on the roof’.”

He goes on:

“It doesn’t always work. Israel today called the death of eight civilians in a house in Khan Younis on Tuesday a tragedy, saying the victims had gone back inside too soon after the warning.”

Disappointingly, Connolly fails to inform viewers that Hamas has instructed the local population to ignore warnings from the IDF, encouraging them to act as human shields.

“They didn’t warn us. […] It was the first time they hit a house without any warning.”

Sommerville adds:

“The Israeli military usually gives advance notice of an attack. If they did here, the Haj family didn’t receive it.”

Again, no effort is made to inform BBC audiences of Hamas’ calls to civilians not to heed Israeli warnings or of the significant fact that in this particular case, that instruction was issued using the Palestinian National Authority logo due to the establishment of the PUG at the beginning of June.

GAZA MOI

July 11th:

“The deaths of two Palestinians in an Israeli air-raid on a camp in central Gaza has brought the total number of people killed in the conflict to 100 in just four days. Overnight another five people were killed when a three-storey house in the southern town of Rafah was flattened. Militants have fired more rockets at Tel Aviv in the last few hours. No Israelis have so far been killed since the conflict began.”

  • A filmed report using amateur footage, the synopsis to which as it appears on the BBC News website does not clarify that the source of the information given is Hamas or that the BBC has not independently verified it and does not make any distinction between civilian and combatant casualties.

“More than 100 people have died in the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, Palestinian sources say.”

  • A filmed report by Jeremy Bowen, who arrived in the Gaza Strip on the morning of the same day. The synopsis to the version of that report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page once again fails to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties and neglects to inform audiences that the figures have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“More than 100 people have died in the Israeli air strikes in the territory, Palestinian sources say.”

Failing to point out that the Gaza Health Ministry is run by Hamas and that the BBC has not verified its claims independently, Bowen informs viewers:

“More than half of over 100 people killed in Gaza by Israeli raids were women and children according to the Health Ministry.”

  • In a separate but similar report from the same date titled “Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′”, Bowen repeats the above claim, once again failing to inform viewers that the figures come from Hamas and have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“More than half of over 100 people killed in Gaza by Israeli raids so far this week were women and children, according to the Health Ministry.”

He adds:

“The UN Human Rights Commissioner says there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians.”

Notably, Bowen’s paraphrasing of Navi Pillay’s statement does not include the part of it which conflicts with Bowen’s claim that more than half the casualties in the Gaza Strip are women and children. Bowen also fails to inform viewers that the UN Commissioner also noted Hamas’ failure to comply with the laws of war that protect civilians, both by its indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians in missile attacks and its storage of weapons and firing of missiles from residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

“Ms. Pillay warned in particular that attacks must not be directed against civilians or civilian objects, nor should military assets be located in densely populated areas or attacks be launched from such areas.”

As we see from the examples of reports above, the BBC’s main themes in its reporting from the Gaza Strip so far have been as follows:

Promotion and amplification of false claims of targeting civilians and collective punishment made by politically motivated interested parties.

Promotion of unverified casualty figures from Hamas sources with a failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Portrayal of Israeli strikes on houses without adequate clarification of the practice of use of residential buildings as command centres and weapons storage facilities by terrorist organisations.

Failure to adequately inform BBC audiences concerning the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organisations, including both the failure to report Hamas calls to the public to ignore Israeli warnings intended to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and the failure to report on the storage and firing of missiles from residential areas.

Failure to inform BBC audiences of factors contributing to the number of casualties such as secondary explosions due to the storage of explosives in houses or public buildings located in residential neighbourhoods and short-falling missiles.

Inference of failure on Israel’s part to conform to laws of war protecting civilians without adequate information on the topic of those laws being provided and with no clarification to audiences concerning obvious breaches of the same laws by terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, including the one which is party to the PA unity government.