The BBC’s unhealthy reliance on information from medics in Gaza

A BBC Watch reader recently wrote to us concerning a reply he had received from the BBC to a complaint made several months ago. Among the issues he had raised was this:

“The referenced article states “Two Palestinian children have been injured by Israeli air strikes”. Can you confirm if this is based on information from Hamas, or was this independently substantiated by the BBC?”

The response he received was as follows:

“Our story clearly attributes the information to “Palestinian medics”. These are usually doctors, ambulance workers or paramedics. When Hamas officials provide information, we say so.”

That response suggests that the BBC considers “Palestinian medics” of all descriptions to be an impartial source of information on the subject of casualties and the causes of their injuries.

But is that in fact the case?

The Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip is of course run by Hamas, with the present Minister being Mufeed Mukhallalati – former dean of the college of medicine at the Islamic University. The Ministry runs a number of hospitals in the Gaza Strip (additional facilities are managed by NGOs or private organisations) with the most well-known being Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. 

Health care facilities Gaza Strip

According to a WHO report produced after the November 2012 hostilities, the vast majority of injuries were dealt with in Ministry of Health (i.e. Hamas-run) hospitals and the Ministry’s command and control centre was situated in Shifa Hospital, which was of course the main hide-out for Hamas leaders during Operation Cast Lead – turning staff and patients into human shields. 

As of January 2012, the Ministry of Health operated 56 ambulances and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society operated 40 ambulances in the Gaza Strip. In other words, over half the ambulance workers and paramedics from whom the BBC may get casualty figures or details of circumstances of injuries are Hamas employees. 

During Operation Cast Lead and throughout the second Intifada, PRCS ambulances were used to transport terror operatives and weapons.  

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr Ashraf al Qidwa, has been known to claim that terrorists were civilian casualties and ‘Palestinian medical sources’ are not averse to contorting stories for the sake of anti-Israel propaganda.  

One representative of the Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Gaza Strip is named Adham Abu Silmaya (aka Adham Abu Salima). Abu Silmaya has quite a history of feeding bogus stories to journalists, including an incident in March 2012 in which he claimed that a 15 year-old youth named Nayif Qarmout had been killed by an Israeli air-strike when no such strike had taken place. 

“A drone strike hit a group of students who were walking by empty land on their way to school,” said spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya, describing an incident which occurred at around 9:30am (0730 GMT).

In June 2012 Abu Silmaya was the source of a claim that a toddler named Hadeel Haddad had been killed by an Israeli air-strike. Although the little girl had in fact died as a result of a mis-fired terrorist rocket, the false story gained considerable exposure – not least because it had been Tweeted by the trusted BBC and a later retraction was largely ignored. 

Hadeel Haddad

Just recently, Rushdi  Abualouf from the BBC’s Gaza office relied on information from anonymous “doctors” when he Tweeted the following:

tweet Rushdi

However, there is another version to the story:

“Two Palestinian men were wounded by Israeli fire in the central Gaza Strip late Sunday, a Gaza health official said.

The Israel Defense Forces reports it is unaware of any Palestinians wounded from IDF fire. However it confirms shots were fired at the Gaza border around 9:00 p.m. Sunday, after Palestinians approached the fence, but reported the shots were fired in the air.

Health official Ashraf al-Kidra, said Israeli forces fired at the men east of Deir al-Balah late Sunday. Their identities were unclear.

The official initially said the men had been killed, but he said that the two were found to be seriously wounded.”

In other words, clearly an announcement had been put out before ‘medical sources’ had even examined the wounded men. 

It is unacceptable that a complaint from a BBC audience member should be dismissed on the grounds that the information provided came from “Palestinian medics” when members of that group – often employed by Hamas – have been known to exploit deaths and injuries for the sake of propaganda.

The BBC needs to acknowledge the fact that information from such sources cannot automatically be classed as reliable and that independent verification is imperative for the health of the BBC’s reputation as an accurate and impartial source. 

30 comments on “The BBC’s unhealthy reliance on information from medics in Gaza

  1. Most here will be aware of this story when it happend. It concerned the image circulated by the media that a 4 year old child had died as a result of an Israeli air strike while the visiting Egyptian PM was in a hospital with the Hamas leader in Gaza.


    Though the BBC didn’t show the picture above they did report this part to it:


    Because Israel denied launching any strikes at the time there was some suspicion about the nature of the child’s death, and it was believed that the death was actually due to a misfired terrorist rocket from Gaza.

    It now turns out to be the case, and even Human Rights Watch themselves, no particular friends to Israel, have confirmed this as the cause of its death.

    Human Rights Watch has acknowledged that terrorists killed civilians in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense when rockets being fired into Israel fell short.

    “Rockets that fell short of their intended targets in Israel apparently killed at least two Palestinians in Gaza and wounded others,” Human Rights Watch said.

    The specific case mentioned in the report involves the four year-old boy used as a political tool by Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil during his visit to Gaza.

    It’s common for the BBC to report quotes from any organisation whose name conveys some air of respectability, whether deserved or not, when they are critical of Israel, I have strong doubts whether this HRW report will be made public by the BBC however, nor will they be amending their previous reports which allowed the Palestinian ‘official’ claim to continue to ‘be the truth’.

    So just let’s see in detail the elements that the BBC allow to run as fact surrounding this incident, just from the part I highlighted in their article above.

    ‘Israel had said it would pause the offensive during Mr Qandil’s visit, if militants refrained from firing rockets.’

    As the HRW report shows, the militants did NOT refrain from firing rockets, and it was one of these which killed this child.

    ‘But shortly after the prime minister arrived, Israeli and Palestinian officials accused each other of violating the temporary truce.’

    Fact is it was the Palestinians which breached this truce.

    ‘While Mr Qandil was at the hospital in Gaza, medical workers brought in the bodies of a man and a boy who officials said had been killed in an Israeli air strike moments earlier.’

    So not only do Palestinians hide the fact that they broke the truce, and continued to fire rockets towards Israel, still claiming that Israel was violating the truce, but one of their own rockets killed a child, and they were still prepared to use this child’s body as a publicity stunt intended to vilify Israel. Note too that Palestinian officials claimed that the child was killed by an Israeli strike, which should make an ethical media service reluctant to trust their claims again, or certainly to make the reader aware of their ‘inconsistencies’, or lies for a better word.

    Think the BBC will?

    I’ll bet they don’t!

    • The lists of casualties used by the BBC are established by the UN or by the ICRC and have been verified by these independent, impartial organizations.

      103 civilians were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza last month, including children who were less than one year old, as verified by the United Nations.

      There’s a reality that people on this website want to hide: when Israeli aircraft drop bombs on densely populated neighborhoods, even if these airstrikes are “targeted”, they do kill innocent civilians, including women and children.

      • Of course they do. Nobody here is trying to hide anything of the sort. All warfare, past and present, causes civilian deaths. To imagine such deaths can be totally avoided in war is ridiculous. The IDF are a modern army, not a troupe of bloody wizards.
        But, even if one accepts the figures from the UN as absolute gospel, the ratio of civilian casualties to combatant ones in Pillar of Cloud is low, even as compared with those of the US or British Armies in say, Afghanistan or Iraq. And this low ratio is even more remarkable when one considers that Hamas, by policy, embeds its missile silos and operational infrastructure in extremely close proximity to civilians. This provides irrefutable evidence that the IDF took considerable care to avoid civilian casualties, in as far as was possible, while working towards meeting their strategic objectives.
        Compare and contrast this to the behaviour of Hamas, who not only go out of their way to maximise the casualties amongst the people they purport to govern (and therefore have a duty to protect), precisely by their aforementioned policy of operating out of civilian areas and buildings, and by failing to provide the Gazan population with anything approximating bomb-shelters, but also quite blatantly and deliberately direct virtually ALL their missile strikes against Israel’s civilian population.

        • To sum up: if you’re going to send aircrafts to drop bombs in heavily populated civilian areas, many innocent women and children are going to die, and you’re gonna end up in front of the International Criminal Court – no more shopping at Harrod’s or anywhere in Europe…

    • What people on this website do not want you to know: anyone who tries to contradict their marginal views is censored.

      Seems like they are annoyed at people who come with FACTS and who remind them of INTERNATIONAL LAW and HUMAN RIGHTS LAW.

      Israel is a democracy, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are protected.

      Do Adam Levick and Hadar Sela feel unable to engage in an intellectual debate where some people contradict them using FACTS and FIGURES?

      It seems they do.

      • Oh, boo-hoo. Suck it up, you moron. You had it coming (you were even warned you had it coming if you didn’t stop your trolling and sockpuppetry) and it was nothing to do with any FACTS or FIGURES.

  2. In March 2010 the BBC ran the news that a Palestinian youth in Gaza had been shot and killed by Israeli forces in clashes there. In the article headlined
    Gaza youth ‘shot dead’ in border incident it states categorically

    Muhammad al-Faramawi, 15, was killed on Tuesday by Israeli fire near Rafah, the Hamas-run health ministry said

    It went on to add

    An official from the Hamas-run ministry of health said the teenager “was left bleeding for hours” before paramedics were able to get Israeli permission to evacuate him.

    A head doctor there also confirmed this

    Only later in the article do we see

    However, there has been speculation over whether the boy could have died in an intra-Palestinian dispute.

    The Maan news service quoted unnamed Palestinian sources who said the boy’s death “may have been an internal matter”, without giving further details.

    So how many readers will bother to read on into the article to have seen this possibility? And if they did, they would get the usual anti-Israel rhetoric that accompanies every article on the subject.

    However, a few days later (Saturday) it miraculously appears that the boy has turned up alive and well at home. I know it’s Easter, but what really is going on? What of the various (BBC) ‘credible witnesses’, that gave all the different versions?

    Okay they did report the story after the boy turned up alive and well, and also put an update on the original story, right at the very bottom of the article, to say Update: The Gazan youth reported to have been shot and killed in this report later emerged uninjured. He had fled to Egypt through one of the tunnels under the border with the strip, as reported here

    Even to this day, the original headline to this story Gaza youth ‘shot dead’ in border incident still stands.


    How is it the BBC are prepared to run as fact anything that Hamas reports? And when it turns up that all the sources interviewed for this story were bogus, and the facts are so different from what was initially reported, there is no story about that. Yet it seems whenever and whatever Israel would claim would appear first in quotation marks, and made to seem that it has been made up.

    Can we expect unverified future Hamas claims to be treated differently? Of course not! They can invent any news they want, and as we see all too often, the BBC will be only too willing to go along with it.

    • Teddy Bear you are obviously a man of the utmost rectitude and integrity, and I wouldn’t dream of questioning your word.Could we please have links to the quotations from human rights watch ?

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    • Teddy Bear – I am sorry that your attempt to make a life for yourself in the blogosphere was such an abject failure.

      Quite the opposite >b<richardarmbach. Teddy Bear should consider starting his own BBCWatch site or contact this site’s owner and offer his/her help.

      He/She has the right attitude whereas you do not.

    • Armbach you should be more careful when writing about failed blogging taking into account your own huge success with your personalized hate site.
      What is the number of visitors on your blog during a year? Two? Maybe the extraordinary number three?

    • richarmbach/RZ/RRZ/Rsole, those who can do, those who can’t troll — one Teddy Bear is worth 1000 sockpuppets.

  4. Well Dickhead, I see you couldn’t find anything to fault in the posts, which show just how vile and despicable your kind is, I knew I detected a gulp after you asked me for the link, so you think you’re going to try and belittle me to earn some kudos with your mates.You actually praised my post, coming after the poster instead of what was posted – typical of your kind.

    Whereas I’m going straight to what you posted – gettit you vile piece of excrement??

    Knock yourself out dickwad, I know it’s dick something, and don’t bother spamming about how insulted you’ve been here, it’s the least you deserve.

    You’ve no idea how low you and your kind are among humans – but you will find out – in the end.
    This I promise you.

    Let’s start with this one – 72 virgins and serving boys seems like heaven to you?

  5. armbach, you frequently run away when comprehensively defeated. This demonstrates that you aren’t interested in debate, or ever changing your mind.

    • He/They CAN’T change their minds. They are completely controlled by those who took that over long ago. In a way I feel sorry for them. Having nothing to be proud of they can only seek to dominate those who surpassed them in order to feel victorious. History has shown time and time again that they’ll never succeed. They make some gains, courtesy of the left wing appeasement mindset, until those that really see what they’re doing decide they’ve had enough and send them back to the stone age for another millennia.

    • Dear Adam, YOU frequently run away when confronted with facts, figures, internationla law.

      This is most probably because you are not a journalist yourself, but just a PR professional.

  6. richardarmbach
    December 29, 2012 @ 1:46 am
    Asked you for the link ? I don’t recall doing that. My colleague found it.

    December 28, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    Teddy Bear you are obviously a man of the utmost rectitude and integrity, and I wouldn’t dream of questioning your word.Could we please have links to the quotations from human rights watch ?

    We really know how you are quite willing to lie and deceive to achieve your goals, but you really should try and do a better job of improving your memory if you have any hope of retaining credibility with your other brainwashed idiots.

    To others here, as far as my website goes to which dickhead linked to, I’m actually very proud of it. Going since 2005 with over 1750 topics and nearly 5000 posts detailing BBC bias on a whole range of subjects where their agenda can be determined. It attracts 250-400 visits a day and functions as intended, to provide a solid database of evidence of BBS bias that can be easily located according to subject.

  7. You should be proud of it Teddy just as sockpuppetry addict richarmbach/RZ/RRZ/RSole should be ashamed of his stupid spiteful defamatory site against basically one person.

    • Thanks Tel’ and thanks to most here for your kind words, informed understanding and wise and spirited determination.

      I’m not familiar with his site, but I have a feeling it would make me want to vomit.

        • Just the posts I see of his and his oiks around here are sufficient in that department 😉
          I did have a peek at his site after seeing a link for it on another thread. It’s everything I’d imagined it to be.


          • Is he responsible for the personal-hatred-and-derogation site he linked to previously, regarding one Mr Hoffman? If so, it looks like the work of a hate-deranged and now-legally-thwarted stalker, to me. Perhaps I was a little closer to the truth than I realised, regarding his prophetic delusions! Certainly, his claim above to have not asked you for a link, when the actual request was only a quick scrolls-worth above, could indicate a multiple-personality disorder. This might explain his various IDs, too. Although, to be fair, they’re all such similar personalities, it seems he lacks enough imagination to even make a proper fist of having a decent MPD, the pathetic sod.

  8. The fact that he blindly follows a particular agenda, supporting terrorist groups that have no regard for human life – even their own, in pursuit of power, shows a clear derangement.If a being accepts lying and cheating as a means to an end, and needs to keep their ‘version of truth’ going in their mind in opposition to real truth and morality, is it any wonder they’re going to be screwed up?

    I believe if they didn’t feel like deep down inferior failures, they would never be prey to the bullshit they decided to follow. The dynamics of their interior and exterior ‘circle’ stop them breaking out of these negative self images, and they remain ‘brainwashed’ (though I think braindirtied is a better term for it).

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