The BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet recently engaged in a Twitter conversation on the subject of her organisation’s reporting of the topic of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels. Some threads from that conversation can be seen here, here and here but readers will get the gist from the screenshot below.
Quentin Sommerville’s two reports (previously discussed here) actually related more to the subject of PIJ rearmament than to the reconstruction of tunnels. As for Doucet’s claim that she “mentioned tunnels in many live broadcasts” – that is true as long as one sticks to the dictionary definition of the word ‘mention‘.
In one of her filmed reports from February 25th Doucet said:
“Six months ago there was a welcome, there was a celebration among Gazans, among Israelis – particularly in southern Israel – that a ceasefire had been reached. But look at this now. It’s like a wasteland. You could be forgiven for thinking there’d been a natural disaster here. But this was the result of 51 days of war as Israeli forces entered on the ground and carried out airstrikes and artillery fire looking for the network of underground tunnels in what they had described as a Hamas stronghold.”
In her other filmed report from the same day Doucet said to Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad:
“But there are reports – credible reports – that Hamas is again digging tunnels, that Hamas has been test-firing missiles in preparation for the next war.”
As we noted here previously, Doucet displayed “no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from”.
In an item for the February 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (available here from 2:45:28) Doucet said:
“….where I’m speaking to you from – I’m essentially standing on a huge mound of rubble with slabs of concrete and twisted wire rods, fragments of children’s clothing threaded through these stones and rubble and dirt. But this is what most of Shuja’iya looks like. It still lies in ruins six months after that ceasefire was reached. It lies very close to Gaza’s border with Israel. It bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes, artillery fire and the ground offensive as Israel said it was searching for Hamas tunnels and Hamas military targets.”
“Well there’s a warm winter sun today in Gaza after days of cold rain but I have to say it’s one of the few bright spots – the only bright spot really – you’ll find here in Gaza. I’m in Shuja’iya which lies very close to the border with Israel. And this was a place which bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire as well as the ground invasion as Israeli forces came into this area to destroy the underground tunnels of Hamas and to target – they say – Hamas targets. But the devastation is all around us: the witness to what really happened here around the Gaza Strip.”
So yes: Doucet did “mention” tunnels. She did not, however, present BBC audiences with the comprehensive picture of the threat those tunnels posed to Israeli civilians in the summer of 2014 which would have enhanced their understanding of the actions taken by Israel and the scenes Doucet now reports with so much pathos. Given that most of the reporting produced by Doucet and her colleagues on that subject whilst the conflict was ongoing was similarly lacking – see examples here, here and here – that omission is obviously very significant.
But no: Doucet did not provide BBC audiences with anything which can seriously be described as meaningful reporting on Hamas’ reconstruction of tunnels since the end of the conflict in any of her many recent reports (see related articles below) from the Gaza Strip.