BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

As long-time readers will be aware, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the BBC failed to independently verify casualty figures and civilian-combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its coverage during and since that conflict was based on data obtained from partial sources which it promoted to audiences without fact-checking.

Since then BBC journalists appear to have ceased trying to independently verify information provided by a terrorist organisation and instead adopt a qualifying ‘he said-she said’ approach which includes describing all Gaza Strip casualties as “Palestinians”, regardless of whether or not they belonged to terror groups.

Here are some examples from the first two days of BBC reporting on the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in bold added]

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza’:

“Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket-launching units in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that three Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.”

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant’:

“Violence escalated after Israel killed PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Four more Palestinians were also killed. […]

Three Palestinians were killed in air strikes in northern Gaza, one of which targeted a group preparing to launch a rocket, Israel said.”

November 12th 2019, BBC World Service radio, ‘Global News Podcast’:

Tom Bateman [03:40]: “And inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have resumed. The latest is they targeted two people on a motorbike that Israel says were a rocket launching unit. One of those people has been killed…”

November 13th 2019: BBC Radio 4,Today’:

[0:34:39] Mishal Husain: “There are fears of a further escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza after 24 hours of violence in which a Palestinian commander was killed by Israel, rocket attacks from Gaza injured Israelis and Palestinians were killed in further Israeli strikes on the territory. […] Tom, first what do we know of those latest Israeli strikes and the Palestinians who died?”

Tom Bateman: “…Palestinian media reporting that one Palestinian has been killed in those strikes so that brings the total of Palestinians who’ve died over the last 24 hours, including Abu al Ata the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader that was targeted by the Israelis yesterday, that total number to eleven.”

[2:33:07] Mishal Husain: “…rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring Israeli civilians and Israeli airstrikes have killed another 14 Palestinians.”

Tom Bateman: “By nightfall [on November 12th] health officials there had said in addition to al Ata and his wife, another 8 Palestinians had been killed. Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites including people trying to launch rockets.”

Mishal Husain: “And the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says there’s now a total of 16 people who have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, including the Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.”

November 13th 2019, BBC World Service radio,Newshour’:

[09:19] Tim Franks: “More Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 23 are reported to have died in the territory.”

November 13th 2019, BBC News website,Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death’ – version 7:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 26 Palestinians, including three children, had been killed by Israeli fire by Wednesday evening. […]

The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants, said three children were among the 23 people killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

PIJ said the dead included members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. Khaled Faraj, a field commander, was killed in a strike in central Gaza.”

As we see, the BBC made no attempt in any of those reports to independently verify the claims of various parties. Neither was any effort made to inform audiences in its own words of how many of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror groups – even when they had been identified as such by their own organisations.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that such an editorial policy contributes to meeting its public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding” and offering  “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers” so that “audiences can engage fully with major… global issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

NPR covers up Islamic Jihad casualties (CAMERA) 



31 comments on “BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

  1. you usually get casualty lists from any countries health ministry. why is Gaza different?
    Note they only have the capacity to day they are dead not how they died.

      • It has both a Government and a Ministry of Health.
        the author apparently wants to disregard any information from the ministry of Health but has not said from where anyone would get their information from

        • Government??? Hahaha, no election in thirteen years does not a government make, try military junta. fits like a glove. You cannot have a government without declaring a state or country, they don’t want to do that as the annual handouts from the UN will stop.

          • sorry to tell you this but a military junta can be a government. Chile under Allende for example Nor do you have to be a country to have a government.

            In the mean time no answer to who do you ask for the statistics for dead people.

            Better luck next time

          • Like all dictatorships, the civilians have no voice, if that is your idea of a government then may G-d have mercy on your soul.

          • I never said it was good government but it is still a government. that is why there is a department of Health.

        • What does Australia have to do with this? During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas later admitted that casualties reported as civilian were in fact theirs or other terrorist groups.

          • Where have I indicated anything about countries reporting what I want? Other countries’ governments don’t consist of terrorist organizations whose goal is the destruction of other countries.

          • Mate,
            The only thing a hospital can do is say such and such is dead. They have no idea of the circumstances.
            your idea is nonsensical.

          • First, we’re not talking about a hospital, we’re talking about the government. Second, there is evidence that Hamas intentionally inflated the civilian casualty count.


            “The Hamas-controlled Ministry of the Interior in the Gaza Strip issued an announcement warning the Palestinians not to divulge information about terrorist operatives (“resistance” casualties) killed during Operation Protective Edge and to refer to them as “innocent civilians.”

            • The numbers of dead come from statistics published by the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip.”

          • err where ate the dead confirmed???

            If there is evidence provide it. Assertions form an Israeli Government Department is not evidence.
            My point has always been where else could you get the statistics from other than the Ministry of Health.

          • I have no earthly idea where this comes from: “err where ate the dead confirmed???”

            If you have evidence to refute the Israel MFA’s website then provide it. If you choose not to believe the Israeli government, that’s your choice, but it does not affect the site’s credibility.

          • The dead are confirmed at the hospital. They will say john smith dies at 5.05. No hospital or mortuary for that matter puts any label on a person. That is totally absurd.

            sorry mate but you have asserted that is correct. It is up to you to provide evidence for that assertion.

          • the assertions merely are arguing between civilians who are not involved in fighting and members of organisations who are. It is not stated whether they were involved in armed action when killed.

  2. The next legal ultimatum for Israel hopefully will be to announce that the Gaza munitions store that holds these Iranian rockets will be blown up. Give them a few days to defuse or remove them – then Woof.

  3. Perhaps the BBC now considers “Palestinian” / “Gaza person” and “Terrorist” / “Militant” as interchangeable, so don’t feel the need to make a distinction any more….

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  5. The BBC in fact has rather clear editorial guidelines for dealing with statistics, including discussing the reliability of sources.

    It’s just that the BBC doesn’t seem to apply them to the Arab war on Israel, at least in any context that might put Israel in a good light.

    When the then-head of BBC Statistics Anthony Reuben reported on the potentially misleading nature of the civilian casualties the BBC was reporting in 2014,

    his article, which merely suggested caution, caused something of an uproar at the time, was soon taken down and Reuben was replaced. That this corporate action had a chilling effect on Reuben’s successor should be obvious. The BBC’s message is clear: when facts or interpretations interferes with the BBC’s chosen narrative (Arabs always child-like victims with no agency or moral responsibility, Jews depicted in a manner that taps into longstanding European antisemitic tropes), they must be ignored or spun into oblivion.

  6. Smoke and mirrors, non verification of facts, upside down reporting, absence of background information, not telling the truth, reporting by omission, anything to make Israel look bad whilst ignoring reality and the truth.

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