On August 20th BBC correspondents in the Middle East tweeted the following news:
As was stated in the report which appeared later the same day on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Hamas members seized from bus near Egypt-Gaza border“, those “4 Palestinians” later turned out to members of Hamas but the BBC did not clarify that they belong to its Izzadin al Qassam Brigades.
“Masked gunmen have seized four members of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas from a bus travelling to Cairo from the Gaza Strip, officials have said. […]
The driver was assaulted and the Hamas members captured after their identity documents were checked.”
The incident took place during a rare three-day opening of the Rafah crossing by Egypt. The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been mostly closed for the last two years and the last time it was opened was during Ramadan in June 2015. Nevertheless, the photograph used to illustrate this article is laconically captioned “Egypt occasionally opens the Rafah border crossing with Gaza”.
Whilst not stating so outright, like the above tweets this report clearly steers readers towards the impression that the four Hamas men travelling on the Cairo airport bound bus were abducted by members of the ISIS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ which operates in Sinai.
“The road from the Rafah border crossing runs through northern Sinai. The most active militant group in the area is an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.”
However, as the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reports, Hamas appears to believe otherwise.
“Initial reports claimed that the four – members of Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam armed wing – were kidnapped by an extremist Islamist group affiliated with Islamic State.
Sources close to Hamas, however, accused the Egyptian authorities of kidnapping the men, who were among 50 Palestinian passengers who left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.
The sources claimed that one of Egypt’s security apparatuses was behind the abduction and held its government fully responsible for their safety.
They said that the four Palestinians were kidnapped about 200 meters from the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal.”
Whether this incident turns out to indeed be an operation by the Egyptian security services or an attempt by Sinai-based Jihadists to pressure Hamas due to its recent crackdown on Salafists in the Gaza Strip remains to be seen. Clearly though, BBC audiences cannot be said to have been provided with the full range and depth of information they require to understand this developing story when the corporation continues to employ unhelpful statements such as this one:
“Egypt has previously accused Hamas of supporting militants in the Sinai desert, who seek to topple the Cairo government. Hamas has denied that allegation.”
Whilst the issue of the Gaza branch of Hamas’ relations with Sinai-based Jihadists is clearly an important component of this story, it continues to be seriously under-reported by the BBC.