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.


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. 





10 comments on “What are the dominant themes appearing in BBC filmed reports from the Gaza Strip?

  1. The focus of the media from what I have seen is once again on criticism of Israeli actions. When they look at Gazans as human beings and demand a decent standard of behaviour from them the air will begin to clear and I think that they will get the message that they’re no longer the spoilt darlings and the victims of the loveys and the press who can do anything because they can do no wrong.

    The story of the indignation of the person who didn’t get a warning from Israel would be beyond belief if it wasn’t that it was printed in Maannews Who could doubt the veracity of Maannews?

    . How often does Hamas issue a warning to Israel that it is about to target a house? Not once beyond the message that all Israelis are targets.

    Warning: this comment contains irony.

  2. bbc “journalists” are mere clowns and their desinfrmation is ludicrous and 0 credibility! the bbc should be called “hamas news” or “hamas voice” If Israel had the good idea to shell massively Gaza they would not dare make a fool of us.

  3. Yolande Knell is as much a terrorist as anyone in Hamas. She uses lies,innuendo and general deception instead of rockets,bombs and suicide vests

  4. The accusation that Israel is targeting civilians, while ignoring the fact that every single rocket fired from Gaza is aimed at killing Israeli civilians, is nothing less than obscene!

    Accepting whatever Palestinian sources say without confirmation while doubting Israel’s version of events has just plumbed new depths:

    A large fire broke out in a UN humanitarian relief compound in the east of Gaza City. Israel said it was caused by Hamas rockets falling short, though this has not been confirmed

    Every claim made by Palestinian sources should also include the phrase, “though this has not been confirmed”

    Under the sub-heading In the latest violence the BBC should be including the minute by minute reports to be found here:


    7:15 p.m. The IDF confirms that rockets from Gaza struck the West Bank cities of Hebron and Bethlehem.

    7:00 p.m. Code Red Sirens alert in Jerusalem and surrounding areas.

    6:30 p.m. Magen David Adom EMS was treating one person in Rishon Lezion who fell down the stairs while he was running to a protected area during a rocket alert siren. MDA was treating another person in Ness Ziona who suffered shock.

    6:12 p.m. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets over central Israel in the Shfela area.

    6:05 p.m. Rocket sirens sound in Ashdod, Lod, Rishon Lezion and other areas in the Shfela area.

    5:30 p.m. Iron Dome intercepts rocket over Ashkelon.

    3:55 p.m. Rocket sirens sound in Beersheba.

    3:45 p.m. Report: Two of Hamas Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh’s nephews killed by IAF strike on home that belonged to his sister.

    3:25 p.m. Rocket sirens sound in the western Negev.

    3:15 p.m. Rocket sirens heard in the western Negev.

    3:07 p.m. Rocket sirens heard in the Eshkol regional council.

    2:58 p.m. Rocket sirens heard in western Negev.

    2:54 p.m. Five Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip, Channel 10 reported on Saturday.

    2:32 p.m. Rocket sirens are heard in greater Ashkelon.

    2:30 p.m. Two Israelis were injured on Saturday when a Palestinian rocket slammed into a home in the Gaza frontier town of Netivot.

    2:01 p.m. Palestinians in Gaza launched rockets toward Ashkelon and the smaller communities near the border.

    1:58 p.m. Rocket sirens were activated a short time ago in Israeli towns close to the Gaza frontier.

    1:37 p.m. Rocket sirens sound in Beersheba, northern Negev towns, Dimona, and Yeruham.

    1:36 p.m. Rocket sirens sound in Ashkelon.

    1:10 p.m. Rocket sirens were heard moments ago in Kerem Shalom, near the border with Gaza.

    12:56 p.m. Rocket sirens were activated moments ago in Ashkelon and the smaller towns and communities near the Gaza border.

    12:52 p.m. Rocket sirens sound in Ashkelon and Gaza frontier towns.

    12:13 p.m. Rocket sirens heard in Sdot Negev and Sha’ar Hanegev.

    12:00 p.m. Rocket intercepted by Iron Dome over Rehovot, while at least two rockets fell in open areas near the city.

    11:42 a.m. Palestinians fired a barrage of rockets at the western Negev, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and the Shfela region.



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