On August 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel to speed up Gaza tunnel barrier“.
“Israel is to accelerate the building of a huge barrier along its boundary with Gaza aimed at preventing militants from tunnelling under the border.
The 64km (40-mile) long construction will reach a depth of 40m (131ft) below and 6m above ground, at a cost of 3bn shekels ($833m).
An Israeli army commander said the barrier should be completed in 2019.
Israel has sought to neutralise the threat of cross-border tunnels since its war with militants in Gaza in 2014.”
The BBC apparently based that article on local media reports concerning a briefing given the previous day by the head of the IDF’s southern command.
“At a briefing on Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Maj Gen Eyal Zamir said the hi-tech barrier would be completed, even at the risk of renewed conflict with Hamas.
“If Hamas chooses to go to war over the barrier, it will be a worthy reason [for Israel] to go to war over. But the barrier will be built,” Israeli media quoted him as saying. […]
According to local media reports, the machine used to dig the new the barrier will destroy any existing tunnels, while the barrier itself will use sophisticated technology to detect any new tunnels being built.”
While readers are not informed which Israeli news site was the source of the information used in the BBC’s article, it is notable that an additional, related and widely reported part of Major General Zamir’s briefing was omitted from the BBC’s account.
“Zamir showed reporters pictures of sites in Gaza, some of them civilian, which Hamas is believed to be using as tunnel shafts. He warned that any civilian who allows terror organizations to use his property for military purposes is risking his life, his family’s life and his property. For example, he showed a house in the Beit Lahiya area, which the army says has an entrance to an underground tunnel that is also connected to a mosque. Another structure, near the Shati refugee camp, has an entrance to a network of tunnels.”
The Jerusalem Post informed its readers that:
“According to Zamir, many of the tunnels run under civilian homes in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, he presented two residential buildings used by Hamas, including one which belongs to a family with six children and another six-story building built within the past two years.
“Any civilians who stay in these buildings endanger their lives and the lives of their families. It’s Hamas who endangers them first and foremost, but every building over a tunnel is a legitimate military target,” Zamir said.
“Part of Hamas’s combat strategy is to conduct itself within civilian areas, which is intended to make it difficult for the IDF to locate, attack and destroy the group’s military infrastructure,” Zamir stated, adding that by drawing Israeli fire to these buildings, Hamas aims to delegitimize Israel and the IDF.”
The Times of Israel reported that:
“In addition to disclosing additional information about the border barrier, the military on Wednesday also revealed that it had found two alleged Hamas tunnel sites buried beneath an apartment building and a family’s home in the northern Gaza Strip.
Zamir accused the Hamas terror group of purposefully building the tunnels under civilian structures to provide cover for its operations. That being the case, the general warned, “these sites are legitimate military targets. Anyone inside of one, should another conflict begin, endangers himself and endangers his family, and the responsibility is on the Hamas organization.””
The IDF also published a backgrounder on the subject, including aerial photographs.
As readers may recall, during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, some senior BBC journalists claimed that there was “no evidence” of Hamas using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields and the BBC Trust subsequently defended that inaccurate reporting following complaints from members of the public.
Given that the BBC’s Middle East editor repeated that claim less than two months ago, the editorial decision not to inform BBC audiences of this clear example of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas is particularly noteworthy.