BBC News coverage of incendiary attacks in two locations

Last year we documented how it took the BBC three months to get round to producing one short report about the arson attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip within the framework of the ‘Great Return March’ which resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of nature reserves, woodland and farm land in nearby Israeli communities.

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

No additional reporting on that topic has been seen in the past eleven months even though the attacks have continued and even been ‘upgraded’ to include airborne explosive devices. The BBC of course continues to portray the activities of Gaza Strip residents along the border with Israel as “protests”.

The ITIC reports that:

“Since the ceasefire (May 6, 2019) that ended the most recent round of escalation, there has been a gradual increase in the launching of incendiary and IED balloons from the Gaza Strip. During the past two weeks it has become intensive and systematic, and caused scores of fires near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border. […]

During the long span of arson terrorism attacks (more than a year), more than 2000 fires have been set in Israel (according to data from the Israel Fire and Rescue Services in the southern district and the Jewish National Fund (JNF)), burning approximately 8700 acres (JNF). Most of the fires broke out near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, burning agricultural fields, natural forests and nature preserves. Arson terrorism also contributed to the disruption of daily life in the local Israeli communities and caused moral and psychological damage.”

Since that last round of escalation in early May BBC audiences have seen plenty of reporting concerning the Gaza Strip – including an interview with a Hamas spokesman – but no coverage of the increased arson attacks launched from that territory which have caused damage to crops.

photo credit: ITIC

However, visitors to the BBC News website on May 29th did learn about the deliberate burning of agricultural land in another location.

Titled “Syrian military ‘burning farmland in rebel-held north’”, the report informs readers that:

“Satellite images show large areas of farmland in opposition-held north-west Syria have been burnt as part of what activists allege is a campaign by the government to destroy vital food crops.

Civil defence workers say incendiary weapons have been fired repeatedly at fields in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces in the past month. […]

The Syria Civil Defence – whose rescue workers are known as the White Helmets – accuses the government and its ally Russia of seeking to “burn all aspects of life” in the last region still held by the opposition after eight years of war.

In addition to bombing residential areas, it says, the Syrian and Russian militaries have targeted farmland with rockets and shells containing incendiary chemicals, causing “large pervasive fires which have destroyed all farm crops and deprived peasant farmers of their coming harvests”.

Satellite photographs taken at the start and end of last week by Maxar Technologies showed areas of scorched earth and plumes of smoke around the town of al-Habeet, in southern Idlib province, and neighbouring Kafr Nabouda, in northern Hama province.”

So if the deliberate burning of farmland in northern Syria is newsworthy – as it of course should be – why has the BBC not produced any reporting on similar events in southern Israel in the past eleven months?

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A ‘Great Return March’ story BBC audiences have not been told

 

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A ‘Great Return March’ story BBC audiences have not been told

As readers may recall, last year it took the BBC three months to get round to producing a report concerning the arson attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip which resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of nature reserves, woodland and farm land in nearby Israeli communities.

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

While the arson attacks using kites and balloons were somewhat less prevalent during the wet winter months, recent weeks have seen an increase in the use of an additional tactic: airborne explosive devices.

In early January:

“…a bomb was flown into Israel using a large cluster of balloons and a drone-like glider device, landing in a carrot field in the Sdot Negev region of southern Israel shortly before noon.”

In late February:

“An explosive device flown into Israel from the Gaza Strip detonated outside a home in the Eshkol region, causing damage but no injuries on Wednesday night, officials said.

The small bomb had been attached to a cluster of balloons and launched toward Israel from the coastal enclave on Wednesday as part of nightly riots along the Gaza border.”

On March 4th an airborne explosive device exploded between two homes in the Eshkol region and the following day saw two more attacks.

“Two explosive devices borne by clusters of balloons from the Gaza Strip detonated inside communities in southern Israel on Tuesday […]

On Tuesday afternoon, the first device exploded in an agricultural field in the Eshkol region. […]

Hours later, a second device was flown into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, landing inside a community in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, the local government said.”

The next day also saw two attacks.

“Two explosive devices attached to bunches of balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and detonated above a community in the southern Israeli Eshkol region.”

An additional incident took place on March 9th .

Photo credit: Almog Boker, Channel 13

“Police sappers were called to the Israel-Gaza border area on Saturday after a cluster of balloons suspected of carrying an explosive device landed in Israeli territory.

Hebrew media reported that the balloons carried a warhead from an anti-tank missile.

The balloons were located in the Sdot Negev Regional Council. Police instructed hikers to keep away from the area as they carried out a controlled explosion.”

And on March 11th:

“Two suspicious packages attached to balloons, at least one of which was reportedly an explosive device, were found Monday at different locations in a southern community near the Gaza Strip.

Police sappers were called in to deal with the devices, which landed in areas of the Eshkol Regional Council.”

To date the BBC has not produced any reporting whatsoever on the topic of the airborne explosive devices launched from the Gaza Strip. We can however expect to continue to see BBC journalists giving audiences ignorant and inaccurate portrayals of the ‘Great Return March’ in which terrorism is downplayed or erased and its perpetrators presented as “innocent civilians”.

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

As we saw in a previous post, a BBC News website article uncritically amplified the findings of a UN Human Right Council inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ while portraying violent rioting as “protests”, failing to explain the aim of the demand for ‘right of return’, refraining from noting the long-standing UNHRC bias against Israel, failing to clarify the inbuilt bias of the inquiry’s mandate, ignoring the fact that a significant proportion of those killed in the violent rioting have been shown to be linked to terror groups and promoting the false notion that under-18s, paramedics and journalists are exclusively ‘civilians’.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 also heard reports on the same story – but were they any better?

The February 28th edition of ‘The World Tonight’ included a news bulletin (from 03:45 here) in which audiences were told that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Israel has rejected a UN report which found that the country may have committed crimes against humanity when its soldiers fired on Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip last year. In nine months of demonstrations 189 people died including 35 children. Investigators said there could be no justification for killing children and people clearly marked as journalists and medics. The Israeli government described the document as a new record of hypocrisy and lies.”

In addition to failing to clarify that the report was commissioned by the partisan UNHRC, that portrayal once again frames violent rioting as “demonstrations” and the people taking part as “protesters”. As in the BBC’s written report, the investigators were blindly quoted with no clarification of the fact that some of those “children and people clearly marked as journalists and medics” have been shown to have links to terror groups.

Later on in the same programme (from 20:35), presenter James Coomarasamy interviewed one of the report’s authors in relation to what he began by describing as “a highly critical report by the Human Rights Council”.

Coomarasamy: “It examined the deaths last year of nearly 200 people who were shot by Israeli soldiers during protests along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. The Bangladeshi lawyer Sara Hossein is one of the report’s authors.”

Coomarasamy did not clarify to listeners that none of the report’s three authors have any expertise in military operations.

Following an overview from Hossein of the inquiry’s findings, Coomarasamy noted that:

22:14 Coomarasamy: “You call them civilian protests. You acknowledge though that there were militants among the protesters. They were organised by Hamas.”

Hossein: “We don’t actually say that the protests were purely organised by Hamas. We say that Hamas as a political body had involvement in the organising and that Hamas members did take part in the protests as well.”

Coomarasamy failed to challenge Hossein’s absurd claim of a distinction between ‘political’ Hamas and its ‘armed wing’.

Later on in the interview (23:50) Coomarasamy did raise the topic of UNHRC institutional bias against Israel but despite acknowledgement of that issue by former UN officials, presented it using the BBC’s favoured ‘Israel says’ formula.

Coomarasamy: “The Israeli government says that you have […] an obsessive hatred of Israel, essentially saying that you single out Israel for these kinds of investigations and other countries in the region simply do not get the same kind of scrutiny.”

Hossein responded with the claim that “we’ve carried out the task that was given to us”, to which Coomarasamy replied:

Coomarasamy: “You don’t accept that Israel gets singled out, that it gets far deeper and closer scrutiny than other countries in the region?”

Hossein: “We interpreted our mandate as being to look at all parties and to look at their responsibility in the context of the protests.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify to listeners that the mandate predetermined that the ‘Great Return March’ events were “civilian protests” and instead moved on to the question of “what do you expect Israel to do with this?” to which Hossein replied:

Hossein: “We have said they should cease the killings of civilians. I cannot see why that is not an acceptable recommendation to make. Why is the killing of an 11 year-old or a 13 year-old or a 14 year-old or a double amputee or a paramedic or a journalist – why and in what context can that be justifiable?”

Rather than informing listeners of the numerous cases in which under-18s, journalists and paramedics have been shown to have links to terror organisations and asking Hossein why the commission ignored Hamas’ own statements regarding the affiliations of many of the dead, Coomarasamy closed the conversation there.

That crucial omission was likewise relevant in Coomarasamy’s subsequent interview with Israel’s representative at the UN in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter. During that conversation Coomarasamy repeatedly promoted the UNHRC’s talking points.

Coomarasamy: “But in the context of what happened – the deaths for example of the children, of people in wheelchairs – how can you justify using live ammunition against them? Was it a mistake by the Israeli Defence Forces? Were they following the rules of engagement?”

Coomarasamy: “…but the question that this report is posing is why did Israeli soldiers fire live rounds at people who were identifiable as children. That must be a question that Israel needs to ask itself.”

Coomarasamy: “So are you disputing that children and people with disabilities were killed by fire from the Israeli forces?”

Coomarasamy: “Is Israel looking into those deaths though of the children and others – innocent civilians.”

As we see, Coomarasamy promoted the absurd notion that minors, people with disabilities (the UNHRC report includes one example of a deaf person, though how IDF forces were supposed to know that is not made clear), paramedics or people wearing ‘Press’ vests are automatically “innocent civilians” regardless of their affiliations or actions at the time.

Previously the same day Radio 4 listeners had heard another dose of unchallenged UNHRC messaging – although significantly, that body was not mentioned by name – in the ‘World at One’ news bulletin (from 05:14 here).

Newsreader: “A UN investigation into the deaths of nearly 200 Palestinian protesters on the border with the Gaza Strip last year has concluded that war crimes may have been committed. 35 children were among the dead. Israel has rejected the report as a theatre of the absurd. Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.”

Foulkes: “The investigators say there are reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers and children even though they were clearly recognisable as such. Israel has always said its actions were a defence against terrorism but the UN report concludes the protests were civilian in nature with clearly stated political aims. The report does however criticise Hamas for failing to stop some of its supporters using incendiary balloons which caused fear and some damage to property in southern Israel.”

Once again we see uncritical and unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report, including the term “war crimes” which, as NGO Monitor explains, is inapplicable given the legal framework selected by the commission.

“…according to the Commission, the violence along the Israel-Gaza border was not a “military” or “combat” situation and therefore human rights law was the appropriate standard. Therefore, its conclusion that “human rights violations may also constitute “war crimes” is baseless, since war crimes can only where the laws of war are applicable.”

BBC coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ has been highly unsatisfactory over the past eleven months, meaning that audiences come to this latest story without the background information necessary for its proper understanding. As we see, rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, the BBC elected to unquestioningly amplify the UNHRC report which dovetails with its own existing politically motivated narrative.

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BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

At the beginning of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme’s live broadcast from the Gaza Strip on December 17th (available here) listeners were told by presenter Mishal Husain that she had “been talking to people on both sides of the divide”. Husain later informed listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Well we’re going to be hearing throughout the programme this morning not from politicians but from individuals and families experiencing the reality both of Gaza and of life in southern Israel…”

As we have seen in previous posts (see ‘related articles’ below), with the exception of a few unattributed sound-bites scattered through the broadcast, in the first half of the three-hour programme listeners did not hear from those ‘ordinary’ people but from three officials from international organisations who all presented a remarkably homogeneous view.

At 1:34:15 listeners heard Husain introduce “a group of young Israelis living in the Gaza periphery” – but not before they had heard yet another typically airbrushed portrayal of the nearly nine months of violent rioting which has taken place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Husain: “This is now the ninth month in which Palestinians have gathered on Fridays at various points along the Gaza side of the perimeter fence that separates it from southern Israel. They say they’re protesting for their rights and against the blockade of Gaza. Israel says Hamas has organised the protests as a cover for attacks.”

The fact that Hamas (along with other terror groups) has been central in the organisation and facilitation of the ‘Great Return March’ events has of course been in the public domain since before they began. However, as regular readers know, the BBC has serially refrained from providing its audiences with that information and for the past nine months BBC audiences have seen violent rioting sanitised as ‘protests’ and ‘peaceful demonstrations’ despite the terror attacks and border infiltrations that have taken place – and with the fact that a significant number of those killed or injured had links to terror groups airbrushed from BBC accounts.

Husain went on to make a typically superficial mention of what her interviewees have been experiencing, using a frequently seen BBC formulation according to which rockets are mysteriously “fired from Gaza” by parties the BBC refuses to name and at targets similarly left undefined. The response to those rockets is however described in precise terms.

Husain: “People on the Israeli side, especially the closest rural communities, have seen fires on the land set off by incendiary kites and balloons. And they live with the wider reality of tension flaring up between Israel and Hamas; rockets fired from Gaza, Israel striking targets within it. I’ve been speaking to a group of young Israelis living in the Gaza periphery to get their personal perspective on the conflict, what’s been happening this year and the way in which Israel seeks to protect them.”

Husain’s conversation with that group of 16 to 23 year olds began with questions relating to their experiences.

Husain: “Were you prepared for what the last few months have been like – because I know you’ve [one of the interviewees] just moved from Tel Aviv but most of you have lived in this part of Israel for some time. Were you prepared for what this period would be like?”

Husain: “Do the rest of you also feel that you are living in a war zone? You’re living in a country at war?”

Husain: “Do you all know as you look around here – we’re sitting outside a café – do you all know where the closest safe place is?”

However after three questions, Husain’s interest in the personal experiences of her young interviewees apparently waned.

Husain: “How much do you know about what life is like on the other side of the fence in Gaza?”

Husain: “If there were Palestinians here from Gaza they would say that the Israeli blockade is why they live in the conditions they do. If they were able to say that to you directly, how would you respond?”

Husain: “In the process of the last few months there have been people who’ve been shot, wounded, even killed a long distance inside the fence, inside Gaza. What do you think when you hear about those injuries and deaths?”

Husain: “Can any of you imagine or hope for a different kind of future or do you think that this is going to be the reality in this part of Israel for the foreseeable future?”

Husain: “Those Palestinians who protested peacefully as part of what they call the Great Return March, you know some of them are the descendants of families that in 1948 ended up in Gaza. What do you think of them demanding their right to return or calling for their rights to be recognised?”

When asked by one of her interviewees “what do you mean by peacefully?”, Husain responded “People who’ve been inside the fence. They haven’t thrown stones or rocks, who’ve been part of peaceful protests.”

Husain: “Let me ask you all then just for one thing that you would say to a Palestinian your age living in Gaza and one thing that you would be prepared to give to them or to compromise in the hope of a better future for both sides.”

Husain: “I want to ask you how much interaction any of you or each of you have had with Palestinians. I know it depends on probably where exactly you’ve grown up but have any of you had Palestinian friends or colleagues or people you’ve been in college with?”

In summary, out of ten main questions posed by Husain, three related to the personal experiences of her interviewees regarding daily security threats, one was a general question about the “future” and six related to Palestinians – mostly those in the Gaza Strip.

Later on in the programme (from 2:40:34) Husain interviewed a group of five Gaza Strip residents between the ages of 20 and 28 and the focus of her questions was notably different.

Husain: “What would you want, Hala, the outside world to know about what life is like here for someone your age?”

Husain: “And Abdul Rahma, I know that you are looking for work. What is it that you want to do and why is it so difficult?”

Husain: “And you know when I talk to Israeli officials and to civilians, they’ll say that [restrictions on movement] is necessary because of their security and…ahm…they would say that you’re in this position because of Hamas. In fact one Israeli woman said to me that people like you, everyone here, is a captive of Hamas as they feel they are.”

Husain: “I want to ask you about what this year has been like and really this is the ninth month that there have been protests at the fence. It’s not very far from here. I’ve seen one day there for myself. I wonder what you think of that…of those protests and whether they are achieving anything.”

Husain: “More than 170 Palestinians have been killed during the protests…Israel regards them as disturbances led by Hamas but there are many people who’ve been…thousands of people who’ve been injured including nearly six thousand people with bullet wounds according to the health ministry here in Gaza. Nimer, what do you think of what’s been happening there?”

Husain: “But I want to ask all of you, because you are just at the start of your lives, whether you think things are going to change here. Whether you have any hope that you will be able to find work or to, you know, to reach your full potential.”

Husain: “You mentioned Hala I think earlier the divisions within Palestinians. I mean the fact is that the Palestinian Authority – the leadership in the West Bank – has had sanctions on Hamas and that has also affected incomes here. Is there hope of resolving that?”

Husain: “Nimer, do you think the next ten years could be better than the last ten during which you’ve grown up?”

Husain: “A final thought Abdul Rahman; what would you say to young Israelis on the other side?”

As we see Husain’s nine main questions to the group in Gaza included two questions relating to the future, two about Hamas and/or the PA, four about personal experiences and opinions and just one about “Israelis on the other side”.

Notably Husain failed to challenge statements made by her interviewees regarding “the Israeli occupation” and “the siege” – neither of which exists in the Gaza Strip. When one of the speakers alleged that he had seen Israel ‘kidnap’ Palestinians at the fence “by force”, Husain’s reaction was “Well I mean I should say that Israel regards everything that is happening close to the fence as a threat to its security”. And when the final speaker complained that Israeli politicians are “still looking at Gaza as they are terrorists”, Husain had no comment to make.

That, by the way, was the sole mention of the word ‘terrorists’ throughout the entire seventy-five minutes of Mishal Husain’s BBC Radio 4 broadcast from the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

 

BBC radio sums up the week and terrorists again disappear

The afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on November 17th included the BBC’s summary of the week’s events in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The same item was repeated in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 14:04 here) and on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ (from 21:11 here).

Presenter Paul Henley introduced the item (from 07:06 here):

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley: “Now tensions have flared this week between Israel and Hamas – the militant group in control of Gaza. In a fallout a key minister resigned from the Israeli government, triggering talks over the government’s future. On Monday Israel and Hamas were involved in their most serious exchange of blows in recent years. Hundreds of rockets were fired from Gaza, killing a Palestinian man in southern Israel, while there were widespread Israeli airstrikes on the Strip, leaving seven people dead. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Once again, BBC World Service listeners were not informed that at least four of those “seven people” were claimed as members by two separate terror factions – the PFLP and PIJ.

The report from Tom Bateman began with the type of account that was conspicuously absent from his reporting from southern Israel earlier in the week.

Bateman: “Well they’re clearing the rubble from the wrecked buildings here in the centre of Gaza City. Next to me is a mountain of rubble. It was a ten-storey building that has been completely reduced to wreckage. And behind that is a building which the entire side has come away. I can see inside people’s apartments. The electricity cables are dangling down like streamers towards the street.” […]

Man: “The explosion, big explosion, came and the building, as you see…”

Bateman: “Completely destroyed.”

Man: “Yeah and my flat of course is totally lost, with all my possessions in it.”

Bateman: “So the suit you’re wearing, that you ran out of the building in that night and this bag here – that’s all you’ve got.”

Man: “Yeah.”

Bateman: “Dr Adnan al Waheidi [phonetic] was home late from his pediatric clinic on Monday. A panicked neighbour called, telling him to leave. The Israeli military had phoned through a warning and then the airstrike came. His apartment block was among more than 150 sites struck in Gaza that Israel said had been used by Hamas. Residents spoke of the most intense night of airstrikes in four years.”

Man: “We are victimised – painfully and continuously. It’s not a matter of temporary even such as an earthquake or a flood. No: this is politically driven.”

Significantly, BBC audiences have not seen or heard any comparable interviews with any of the Israelis whose homes were damaged or destroyed by rockets launched at civilian targets by multiple Gaza Strip based terror factions.

Bateman went on – once again failing to clarify to BBC audiences that the seven Palestinians killed in the firefight near Khan Younis on November 11th were all members of two terror factions and yet again erasing from view the 17 rocket attacks against Israeli civilians which were launched on that date.

Bateman: “The bombing was in response to waves of Hamas rocket attacks which triggered sirens in southern Israeli towns. The barrage took place from Palestinian militants who’d vowed revenge. On Sunday they’d uncovered a secret operation by Israeli Special Forces inside Gaza, sparking an intense exchange of fire. Seven Palestinians and an Israeli officer were killed. Israel said Hamas sent nearly 500 rockets and mortars into southern Israel.”

Girl: “I stayed at the safe room with my mum and it was crowded and it was scary, you know, and I hear all the bombs and I hear all the helicopters and I hear the alarms knowing that if I look outside the window I see everything and it’s like, it’s like, it’s a routine scene here but it’s scary that that might kill me. While I’m looking out the window it might kill me.”

Listeners then discovered that Bateman was present at a protest march about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing.

Bateman: “Kim Philips lives a mile from the Gaza Strip. Last week, in the days before the latest flare-up, she had joined a protest march to Jerusalem. Israeli high-school students living near Gaza claimed politicians weren’t taking the security threat seriously enough.”

Boy: “My name is Yuval.”

Bateman: “What’s the message that you want to get across?”

Boy: “We want to get acknowledged. We feel like nobody cares about us. We’re there like in the past seven months with [unintelligible] fires and missiles and nobody takes any step to make a change.”

With BBC audiences having heard very little indeed about the months of arson attacks on Israeli farmland, forests and nature reserves surrounding the Gaza Strip, listeners could be forgiven for finding that reference to fires confusing.

Bateman went on, adopting the standard BBC framing of months of violent rioting and acts of terror as “protests”, failing to clarify that they were organised and facilitated by Hamas and additional terror factions and refraining from informing listeners that a significant proportion of those killed were linked to those terror factions.

Bateman: “Tensions have boiled for months on the Gaza perimeter. More than 220 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire – mostly during weekly protests at the fence. An Israeli soldier was shot dead in July by a Palestinian sniper. Intensive efforts by Egypt and the UN to broker a truce had staggered on. Hamas sought an easing of Gaza’s blockade by Israel and Egypt amid the ever-deteriorating state of daily life in the Strip. Israel demanded calm at the fence. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had gone along with the diplomatic efforts to avoid – he said – an unnecessary war. In Gaza a tentative ceasefire held since Tuesday but the skies did not clear. Thunderstorms rumbled in over the Mediterranean and a political lightning bolt struck close to Mr Netanyahu.”

The ceasefire of course also applied to southern Israel. Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Amid a blaze of camera flashes, the hawkish Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned, describing a process of agreement with Hamas as capitulation to terror. His move could yet spark a general election in Israel within months. Mr Netanyahu retorted, implying Hamas were on their knees. They were begging for a ceasefire, he said. Nevertheless, the nationalistic songs have echoed in Gaza as militant groups claimed a victory. But the pressures on both sides not to be seen to back down could yet prove decisive. Whether external diplomacy can overcome another slide towards conflict will be watched as closely by the residents on both sides.”

As we see, the take-away summary of the week’s events provided to listeners to BBC World Service Radio and BBC Radio 4 by Tom Bateman gives an account of damage to buildings in the Gaza Strip – with no comparable account of damage in southern Israel – while failing to sufficiently clarify that whereas the targets of Israeli airstrikes were sites used by terror factions, the targets of those terrorist groups were Israeli civilians. Additionally, we see that the practice of describing members of terror factions killed while engaged in violent activities as mere “Palestinians” continues to blight BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

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Selective and misleading BBC accounts of Gaza border violence persist

The BBC’s partisan framing of the weekly ‘Great Return March’ rioting continues, as a recent example demonstrates.

On October 12th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard the following report (from 04:55 here) read by newsreader Chris Aldridge which was also repeated a couple of hours later in the station’s midnight news bulletin. [emphasis in bold added]

Aldridge: “Health officials in Gaza say seven Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during protests on the border with Israel. Around 250 people were injured. The demonstrations involving around 1,000 Palestinians have prompted the Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman to order an immediate hold in fuel deliveries to Gaza. Our correspondent Yolande Knell reports from Jerusalem.”

As we see, members of the Hamas terror group were presented as “health officials” and the regular violent rioting now in its seventh month was, as ever, misleadingly portrayed as “protests” and “demonstrations”. Aldridge’s claim that “around 1,000 Palestinians” took part in the incidents on October 12th is inaccurate: in fact around fifteen times that number participated in the violence.

BBC audiences were not informed that the “hold in fuel deliveries to Gaza” related to $60 million worth of fuel donated by Qatar.

“Channel 10 news military analyst Alon Ben-David said Israel had seen Friday as a test for Hamas, which had been expected to temper border protests in response to Israel allowing the transfer of fuel into the Strip. Hamas had failed this test, he said.

In recent days Qatari-bought fuel had begun entering the Strip to allow operation of its only power station, in a bid to alleviate conditions in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Israel has facilitated the delivery over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, hoping it will help ease months of protests and clashes. […]

For months residents of the strip have been receiving only four hours of electricity a day on average. Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s resident humanitarian coordinator, told the Reuters news agency the delivery will add a few more hours of electricity to Gaza’s 2 million residents.

But it was met with criticism by officials close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose rival administration was not involved. […]

In a statement Tuesday Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior official close to Abbas, threatened retaliatory measures if the fuel deliveries continued.

Abbas has reportedly threatened to cut off funds to Gaza in response to the fuel transfers.

“When Qatar pays for the fuel, Hamas in Gaza will collect the bills and put it in its pocket, and this is an indirect financial aid to Hamas,” a PA official said Saturday…”

Yolande Knell opened her report using the ‘Israel says’ formula:

Knell: “The Israeli military says Palestinians have been burning tyres and throwing stones and explosive devices at its troops. It says soldiers shot at a group which broke through the border fence using a bomb and approached an army post.”

In contrast, here is a local report on the same events:

“In the most serious incident, in the south of the Strip, the IDF said several Gazans planted a bomb by the fence. After it exploded and blew a hole in the fence, some 20 Palestinians came through and ran toward Israeli soldiers stationed in a snipers’ position.

Most of the Gazans pulled back and returned through the fence into the Strip. However, three continued to move towards soldiers, who fired at them, killing them. […]

The army said around 15,000 protesters hurled grenades, bombs, firebombs and rocks at Israeli forces at various locations along the border. Hadashot TV reported that for the first time soldiers were also being shot at with crossbows. […]

Heavy smoke from burning tires at the Kerem Shalom crossing in the northern Strip prompted authorities in Israel to order residents of the adjacent kibbutz to stay indoors. Ynet said firefighters were putting up large fans throughout the community to help clear the smoke.

Meanwhile, ten fires broke out in southern Israel that were sparked by incendiary balloons launched over the border.”

Knell continued:

Knell: “The protesters are demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt and the right to return to Palestinans’ ancestral land which now lies inside Israel.”

Unsurprisingly, Knell did not mention that her “end to the blockade” theory is undermined by the fact that no comparable rioting has been staged along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Neither did she bother to clarify that the so-called ‘right of return’ is intended to eradicate the Jewish state.

Significantly, Knell did not explain to BBC audiences that the Hamas-orchestrated rioting in fact prevented the entry of the Israel facilitated Qatari fuel donation aimed at improving conditions for residents of the Gaza Strip.

Airbrushing both the violent coup of 2007 in which the terror group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and the ample evidence of Hamas involvement in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ events which the BBC has failed to report for over half a year, she closed her report:

Knell: “Israel accuses Hamas – the militant group which runs Gaza – of orchestrating the demonstrations as a cover to launch attacks. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began in late March. One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper.”

As we see, Knell concealed the fact that a significant proportion of those killed have been shown to have links to terror organisations – as Hamas itself has admitted.

Even in a simple 65 second item in a news bulletin, BBC audiences are being fed a selective and partisan account of events which actively hinders their understanding of this ongoing story.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC’s sanitisation of deliberate Gaza border violence continues

BBC tries to erase Hamas’ role in ‘Great Return March’ violence

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA) 

 

 

BBC’s sanitisation of deliberate Gaza border violence continues

On August 7th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israeli tank fire kills two Hamas militants in Gaza” on its Middle East page. The report relates to an incident which took place earlier in the day when IDF soldiers on patrol in the northern sector of the Border between Israel and the Gaza Strip identified gunfire from the Beit Lahiya area. Hamas later claimed that the snipers were taking part in a drill held by the terror group near the border fence.

The BBC’s report on the incident opened as follows:

“The Israeli military has struck a Hamas border post in northern Gaza with a tank shell, killing two members of the Palestinian group’s military wing.

The military said the tank responded to shots fired at soldiers from the post.

But Hamas said its fighters were taking part in a live-fire exercise and that Israel would pay for their deaths.”

The last four paragraphs of that 14 paragraph report presented audiences with the BBC’s now standard narrative concerning events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip since the end of March, including concealment of the fact that the violent provocations have been deliberately staged by Palestinian terror groups as part of a propaganda campaign.  

“In the past four months, there has been an upsurge in violence along the Gaza-Israel border.

More than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces – most during weekly protests at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force at the protests. Israel has said they only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory.

One Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper during the same period, while incendiary devices attached to balloons and kites launched by Palestinians have sparked hundreds of fires in southern Israel, burning some 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of forest and farmland.”

As we see, the BBC once again promotes Hamas-sourced casualty figures while failing to clarify that the terror group is one of the factions involved in the organisation, financing and facilitation of what are yet again blandly described as “weekly protests”.

Readers are not told that those ‘Great Return March’ events have been characterised by violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts. The BBC likewise refrains from clarifying that the “upsurge in violence” has also included hundreds of rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian terror factions against Israeli civilians.

While amplifying the “declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel”, the BBC did not bother to inform its audiences that the intention of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ is to bring about the end of the Jewish state.

For over four months the BBC has been presenting its audiences with a tightly framed portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt which whitewashes its violence and downplays the role of terror factions in its organisation and execution.

Four years ago the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards wrote that:

“Our online news is far more accessible today than the newspaper archives of libraries. But in principle there is no difference between them: both are historical records. Fundamentally it is in the public interest to retain them intact.”

As was noted here at the time:

“That, of course, is true only so long as those “historical records” are correct. It is not, however, in the public interest to have historical records which are misleading, inaccurate or politically biased – especially from an organisation which enjoys the public’s trust – and funding.”

Sadly, it is bland and materially misleading portrayals of the weekly violence deliberately organised for propaganda purposes by terror factions in the Gaza Strip such as the one above which the BBC is ensuring will become “historical records”.

 

 

 

BBC News amplifies terror group and political NGO in crossing report

On July 17th a report titled “Israel suspends fuel deliveries to Gaza over arson attacks” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The article opened with a reasonable account of the story:

“Israel has tightened restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after Palestinians carried out fresh attacks with incendiary balloons.

No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted. [emphasis added]

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was responding to “continued terror attempts” by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.”

The report also gave readers a reasonable account of the hostilities that took place on July 14th.

“On Saturday, the Israeli military carried out waves of air strikes across the coastal territory in response to some of the most intensive bombardments from Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

Two Palestinians were killed and 14 others wounded in the Israeli strikes, while four Israelis were wounded when more than 200 rockets and mortars were fired towards southern Israel.

The violence subsided after Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.”

As was the case when previous restrictions were announced a week before, the BBC presented lower figures for the area of land (7,500 acres) destroyed in Palestinian arson attacks and the monetary value ($2 million) of that damage than is actually the case.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was prepared to “increase the force of our attacks” if Palestinians did not stop launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices over the Gaza-Israel border.

The devices have sparked hundreds fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,830 hectares (7,000 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, officials say.”

Readers found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the publicity stunt – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions, as well as giving context-free amplification to the ‘right of return’ claim.

“The arson attacks began during mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel and also demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.”

The most notable aspect of this report, however, is the BBC’s decision to highlight comment on the story from two sources.

Firstly, the BBC found it appropriate to amplify parts of a statement from the spokesman of a terrorist organisation.

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza, warned Israel of “dangerous consequences”. […]

A Hamas spokesman called the closure a “crime against humanity”.

“These vengeful measures reflect the degree of the oppression and the ugliness of the crime that Gaza is facing, that will have dangerous consequences for which the occupation will bear full responsibility,” Fawzi Barhoum said.”

Barhoum also stated that:

“The Israeli occupation’s closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing and depriving Gaza from the most simple necessities of life is a crime against humanity that will be added to its list of crimes at the expense of the Palestinian people including those living in the Strip”

BBC audiences were not however told that in May, the terror organisation now once again claiming a “crime against humanity” directed three separate attacks against the Kerem Shalom crossing, damaging the same fuel supplies which it now calls “the most simple necessities of life”. Neither were they informed of the related issue of Hamas’ cynical exploitation of fuel imported via the Rafah crossing.

“Approximately 30 million liters of diesel fuel, supposedly intended for Gaza’s power station, have been brought in since the beginning of the year. Hamas buys the diesel fuel from Egypt, but instead of using it all to fuel the station and produce more hours of electricity per day, it has been using some of the diesel fuel to make a profit.

Of the 30 million liters, 17.8 million were taken to Gaza’s power station. Another 12.2 million liters were either sold on the black market to those willing to pay the maximum price for it, or diverted for Hamas’s military purposes. Hamas makes a profit of NIS 2.5 on every liter of diesel fuel sold in Gaza.”

The second comment on the story promoted to BBC audiences came from a foreign funded political NGO – with a link to its Twitter account.

As the BBC correctly reported at the beginning of the article – there is no “closure” of the Kerem Shalom crossing and “Gaza’s main lifeline” has not been ‘shut down’. It is therefore significant that the BBC chose to amplify those inaccurate claims despite obviously knowing that they are false.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require that audiences be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors. In the case of ‘Gisha’, it would obviously be helpful to BBC audiences to know that the political NGO touting the claim of “illegal collective punishment” petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court in April, claiming that Israel’s responses to the ‘Great Return March’ violence along the Gaza border are illegal and demanding that the Court prohibit the use of live ammunition by the IDF. The court rejected that petition.

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Apparently BBC News website editors are of the opinion that the amplification of baseless propaganda slogans such as “crime against humanity” from a terror faction and “illegal collective punishment” from a political NGO which claims to represent the interests of “Gaza residents” that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves in three months of terror attacks, contributes to audience understanding of this story.

Related Articles:

After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first five minutes of an item relating to the weekend’s events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip that was aired in the July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was given over to an unchallenged polemic from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

Up until this point in the item listeners had not been told that some 200 projectiles had been launched by terror factions in the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities over the weekend. They had not heard an accurate description of the building – a Hamas training facility – in which the two teenagers had been located when they were accidentally killed. Neither had they been informed that this latest round of violence began when an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack at the border on July 13th. They had however heard a severely whitewashed account of terror attacks perpetrated along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip during the past three and a half months.

Presenter John Humphrys next brought in the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 01:39:29 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Chris Gunness; thank you very much for that and let’s turn to, as I say, Tom Bateman our correspondent. Tom, I was trying to suggest to Mr Gunness what the Israelis would say. What are they in fact saying this morning, if anything?”

Bateman: “Well, you know, it was a significant flare-up over the weekend and I think, you know, eh..on a similar scale we saw a couple of months ago.”

In fact, 25% fewer attacks took place on May 29-30 than on July 13-14. Bateman than went on to tell listeners that Israel had been “bombing the Gaza Strip” rather than carefully selected terrorist infrastructure as is actually the case.

Bateman: “Whereby, you know, you had Israel bombing the Gaza Strip – it said more than 40 militant sites – and at the same time the Israelis say up to 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Now one of those rockets hit a house in the town of Sderot: people were wounded.”

While Bateman did inform listeners of the scale of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, he failed to clarify who fired the missiles and presented the numbers with unnecessary ‘Israel says’ qualification. As was the case in BBC World Service news bulletins, while listeners had heard plenty about two teenagers – or “children” – killed in Gaza, they were not told that the wounded in Sderot also included people in that age group.  Bateman continued:

Bateman: “So the Israeli perspective is very much about that point of provocation. They’ve said – the Israeli Defence Forces said over the weekend that it is increasing the number of Iron Dome anti-missile systems in central and southern Israel. But I think, you know, the real decision maker here is the Israeli security cabinet and there are even more hawkish elements in the right-wing coalition to Benjamin Netanyahu that have been saying that – for example – the ceasefire was allowing Hamas to dictate the conditions. Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, was Tweeting over the weekend in effect suggesting that this was Israel caving into Hamas who was dictating the terms to this Egyptian mediation.”

As documented here previously, BBC coverage of the three months of Palestinian arson attacks that have destroyed some 7,400 acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves and caused millions of dollars-worth of damage has been very poor indeed. It is therefore highly unlikely that listeners would be able to fill in the gaps for themselves as they heard Bateman’s tepid description of that terrorism, together with his introduction of the theme of “asymmetric warfare”.

Bateman: “But I think the tensions are going to continue to simmer, John, because what Israel has now been concerned about is this…what’s been happening on a near daily basis, which has been Palestinians at the fence flying kites and filling condoms with helium and sending them over the fence with flammable objects tied to them and burning fields. And you now have this sort of spectre that I think will be seen from the outside – and this is tension on Mr Netanyahu – as a sort of asymmetric warfare because the Israelis were using airstrikes against people over the weekend who were sending these kites over the fence.”

While failing to clarify that Egypt and Israel enforce closures of their borders with the Gaza Strip precisely because of Hamas terrorism, Bateman closed with a reference to an incident on July 13th but refrained from informing listeners that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

Bateman: “The Palestinians say that this is simply protest against the blockade that continues by Israel and by Egypt. It is made worse by the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority imposing sanctions on Hamas in Gaza – on some of the public sector payments. But, you know, those tensions at the border are going to continue. There was a 15 year-old boy shot dead by the Israelis again at the fence on Friday and I think, you know, that issue over how Israel responds to what’s happening at the fence will increase the political pressure on Mr Netanyahu.”

Later on in the same edition of ‘Today’ listeners heard another item (from 02:50:20 here) relating to the same topic which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb as follows:

Webb: “We heard earlier in the programme about the worst exchange of hostilities between Gaza [sic] and…err…Israel since the war in 2014. There is now a fragile ceasefire but Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA the United Nations relief agency that operates in Gaza, said he condemned what had happened.”

Radio 4 listeners then heard part of Gunness’ previously aired unchallenged polemic recycled:

Gunness: “These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Now a quarter of the way into the four-minute item, Webb introduced former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly.

After Lerner had clarified the number of missiles fired from Gaza on July 14th, the number of acres of land in Israel destroyed by Palestinian arson attacks and the fact that Iran had funded the ‘Great Return March’ to the tune of $45 million which could have been used to improve Gaza’s infrastructure, Webb interrupted him with the false suggestion that the two teenagers accidentally killed because they were in a building that listeners had still not been told was a Hamas training facility were deliberately targeted.

Webb: “But the point Chris Gunness was making was that even if you accept all of that, attacking a place where there are children, killing two children, is not a proper proportionate response.”

When Lerner pointed out that Hamas “basically wrote the book on the use of human shields”, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “But even if that is the case, is it right to kill the shields?”

When Lerner raised the topic of Hamas’ accountability for the events, Webb interrupted once more.

Webb: “Well what about an investigation then that looks at both sides?”

As we see listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 16th heard a total of eleven minutes and forty seconds of content relating to a story based around the deaths of two teenagers. However, not once in all that time were they told that the building in which the two were located was a Hamas training facility with access to the terror group’s underground tunnel network. Rather, even at the end of both items, listeners were still under the mistaken impression that this was just some random “building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go” as Chris Gunness falsely claimed and – significantly – as Hamas tried to spin the story.

So much for the BBC’s supposed obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

Related Articles:

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

 

 

 

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

In recent weeks we have been documenting the BBC’s coverage – or lack of it – of the arson attacks on farmland, woodland and nature reserves adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

As was noted on several occasions during that time:

“Since they began in April, not one BBC Jerusalem bureau reporter has found the time to travel to the border district to report on how the attacks are affecting the people living there.”

Apparently somebody at the BBC also noticed that fact because on July 12th a filmed report by Erica Chernofsky appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “How kites and balloons became militant weapons“.

Although the arson attacks had been going on for three months by the time this video appeared, they were described as a “new threat” in its synopsis. [emphasis added]

“Israelis living close to the border with Gaza face a new threat from Palestinian militants – ‘fire kites’ and balloons.”

In just over half of the two-minute twenty-seven second video viewers hear from Yael Raz Lachiani – spokesperson for Kibbutz Nahal Oz. In the rest they are told by the BBC that:

“Palestinian militants in Gaza are using some unusual weapons to attack Israel. These rudimentary weapons have caused more than 500 fires in the area. The balloons are often made from condoms because of their durability.”

At that point viewers see footage of such a balloon being filled with some sort of gas.

They are not told that the gas is helium and that it is intended to be used for medical purposes – notably MRI machines – or that last month Israel announced that it would “be more critical in assessing the requests made by hospitals and medical facilities in the Gaza Strip to ensure that the gas was being used for the correct purposes and not for arson balloons”.

The video goes on:

More than 6,000 acres of land have been destroyed by the fires.”

In fact, over a week before this video was published the figure was already over 7,400 acres.

“In Nahal Oz, some 250 acres of wheat fields have been scorched. The damage is estimated to be about $2m (£1.5m). The attacks began amid a period of violence along the border which saw about 120 Palestinians killed.”

No context concerning the pre-planned nature of that “period of violence”, the part played by terror groups in initiating, facilitating and financing it or the fact that over 80% of those “120 Palestinians” were linked to terror factions was provided to viewers, who were then told that:

“The Israeli army has developed drone technology to down the kites but it doesn’t catch them all.”

So finally, after three months of arson attacks, members of the BBC’s audience who happened to visit its website may now have seen one minute and twenty seconds of comment from one resident of the area bordering the Gaza Strip.