As readers are no doubt aware, terrorists in the Gaza Strip violated the ceasefire which was due to end at midnight on August 19th some eight and a half hours before it expired with missile fire at the city of Be’er Sheva. Around half an hour after that violation, Israel announced the renewal of strikes on terror infrastructure and targets in the Gaza Strip. By the time the truce’s designated expiry time arrived, around fifty missiles had been launched at civilian targets in Israel. So how did the BBC News website report those events?
About an hour after the first missiles had been fired an existing article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page – “Gaza ceasefire ‘extended by a day’ after Cairo talks” – was amended and the following information added:
“On Tuesday afternoon three rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, landing in open areas in Beersheba, an IDF spokesperson told the BBC.
No-one was injured in the attack, which was the first instance of rocket fire in several days.”
It was not made clear to BBC audiences that this missile fire was a violation of a ceasefire agreement, nor was it pointed out that Hamas had also breached several previous ceasefires.
Very shortly after that article was amended, a new one appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Israel PM orders new Gaza strikes following rocket fire”. Typically, readers were informed of the last occurrence first.
“Israel’s prime minister has ordered its military to launch strikes on the Gaza Strip following fresh rocket fire from militants there, officials say.
One Israeli official said “terror sites” would be targeted “in response to Hamas’ violation of the truce”. “
That report underwent considerable changes in the hours after its publication with its later ‘last-first’ headlines being “Israel launches Gaza strikes following rocket fire” and “Gaza conflict: Israel launches strikes after rocket fire” before eventually arriving at the ambiguous “Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting“.
At no point does the article clarify to readers in the BBC’s own words that terrorists in the Gaza Strip violated the ceasefire. Earlier versions of the article include the following statements regarding the missile fire into Israel:
2nd, 3rd and 4th versions:
“There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, which is dominated by the Islamist movement Hamas.”
5th, 6th and 7th versions:
“There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, which is dominated by the Islamist movement Hamas. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamist movement, told the BBC that it “had no idea or information about the firing of any rockets”.”
From the ninth version onwards, the topic of responsibility for the missile fire disappears from the article completely. That fact is remarkable because around half an hour before the ninth version was published, Hamas did claim responsibility for the missile fire but – unlike its denials – that event was obviously not considered newsworthy by the BBC.
“11:42 P.M. Hamas’ military wing takes responsibility for the rocket fire on Israel and says it has launched a M75 missile as well, according the Palestinian Maan news agency.”
Now that does require some explaining.