On the third day of the wave of fires currently afflicting Israel the BBC News website produced its first reports on the story. Originally titled “Israel forest fires: Hundreds evacuated as flames reach Haifa”, a written article was published on the afternoon of November 24th and has since been frequently updated to reflect some – though not all – of the developments.
In addition, a filmed report (without commentary) and a feature titled “In pictures: Israel wildfires force evacuations in Haifa” appeared on the BBC News website.
All versions of the written report – which is currently headlined “Israel fires: Tens of thousands flee as fires hit Haifa” – inform BBC audiences that:
“In 2010, 42 people died in a fire on Mount Carmel, just south of Haifa.”
In fact, as the state ombudsman’s report into that disaster and many additional sources note, the number of fatalities was forty-four.
Later versions of the written report open as follows:
“About 80,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes as wildfires swept into Israel’s third largest city of Haifa.
The fires follow a two-month drought and are being fanned by strong winds in the north of the city.” [emphasis added]
The winds causing the fires to spread rapidly are evident country-wide and of course are not limited to the “north” of Haifa: some of the more badly affected neighbourhoods are in fact located in the central and southern parts of the city.
Later versions of the report promoted unqualified Fatah propaganda claiming that Israeli territory (and forest) is ‘Palestinian’.
“….Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, […] said Israeli officials were “exploiting the fire” to accuse Palestinians.
“What is burning are our trees and our land of historical Palestine,” it said in a statement.”
Readers were then correctly informed that:
“On social media, the Arabic-language hashtag #Israel_on_fire began trending, with most tweets expressing pleasure over the outbreak.”
The article does not however note that similar expressions were also seen in the English language – including in response to a Tweet promoting the written report from the BBC Breaking News Twitter account.