BBC News disregards Sinai missile attack once again

On the morning of February 20th two missiles fired from Egyptian territory hit southern Israel.No news

“Two rockets fired from the Sinai Peninsula struck an open field in southern Israel on Monday morning, the army said.

No one was injured and no damage was caused by the missiles, the army said.

The rockets hit the Eshkol region, which borders southern Gaza and the northeastern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

A police bomb disposal unit found one of them near the community of Naveh, near the Egyptian border. A second sapper team was on its way to the location of the other rocket, police said.”

The attack was later claimed by ISIS.

Once again, that incident did not receive any BBC coverage.

Since the beginning of the year three missile attacks against Israel have taken place – one from Gaza and two from Sinai – none of which have been reported by the BBC’s English language services. Throughout 2016 just one of ten attacks received BBC coverage in English.

missile-attacks-2017-table

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to ignore Gaza missile attacks – in English

BBC News again ignores a missile attack on Israel

Poor BBC reporting on Hamas-ISIS Sinai collaboration highlighted again

Earlier this year, we documented the BBC’s long-standing avoidance of any serious, in-depth reporting on the subject of collaboration between Hamas and the ISIS franchise operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

Years of BBC amplifications of Hamas denials unravel

BBC’s Knell amplifies Hamas PR while sidestepping ISIS-Hamas collaboration

Back in August 2013 the BBC’s Yolande Knell told audiences that:

“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.”

Failing to provide any objective information concerning those Egyptian claims, she then promoted the following statement from Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad:

“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed [sic] said.

“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.”

In October 2014 the BBC told its audiences that:

“Egyptian media accuses Gaza’s Hamas administration of aiding militants in Sinai. Hamas denies the charge.”

In September 2015 the BBC amplified a report by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW):

“The [Egyptian] military aims to eventually clear an area of about 79 sq km (30 sq miles) along the Gaza border, including all of the town of Rafah, which has a population of about 78,000 people, HRW says.

The government says the operation will allow the military to close smuggling tunnels it alleges are used by jihadists to receive weapons, fighters and logistical help from Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But HRW said little or no evidence had been offered to support this justification, citing statements from Egyptian and Israeli officials that suggested weapons were more likely to have been obtained from Libya or captured from the Egyptian military.” [emphasis added]

In March 2016, Yolande Knell told BBC audiences that:Knell ISIS Sinai report

“Palestinians are also alleged to have treated injured IS fighters. I cross into Gaza where Hamas officials strongly deny the claims.”

Viewers then heard from Ghazi Hamad.

“We will not allow for anyone from Gaza now to do anything against or to damage or to harm the national security of Egypt and we will not allow for anyone from Sinai to come to use Gaza as a shelter.”

Despite the BBC’s repeated amplification of Hamas denials of collaboration with the ISIS affiliate in Sinai, we now learn from that latter organisation itself of the existence of a “liaison” between it and Hamas.

“ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula has announced that its liaison to Hamas—Hashem Abdel Aileh Kishtah has been killed. However, the group didn’t reveal how their liaison to the Palestinian terror group died.

ISIS released a statement on the matter on Tuesday. Kishtah was originally from the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza strip.

Kishtah’s name was first revealed when it was mistakenly announced via Sky News Arabic that the Egyptian Air Force had assassinated him in February of 2016. He was referred to as a high-ranking official in the Hamas Izzadin al-Qassam military brigade. […]

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai mentioned Kishtah’s name several times when speaking about the relationship and cooperation which exists between ISIS and Hamas.”

Yet again we see that BBC audiences are not receiving the full range of information which would enhance their understanding of this “international issue“.

BBC reporting on the use of ambulances by terrorists in Iraq and Gaza

On November 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Iraq suicide attacks: Ambulances used in Tikrit and Samarra“.ambulances-iraq-art

“Suicide bombers have used explosives-laden ambulances to kill at least 21 people and wound many others in the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group said it had carried out both attacks. […]

The deadliest of Sunday’s blasts happened in Tikrit, some 200km (123 miles) south of Mosul.

A suicide bomber drove a booby-trapped ambulance into a line of vehicles queuing at a checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city, once the hometown of executed former leader Saddam Hussein. […]

In Samarra, further south, another ambulance was detonated in a car park for the al-Askari mosque – one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Iranian pilgrims were among the dead.”

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ use of ambulances to transport armed terror operatives (a practice also seen in previous conflicts in Gaza and during the second Intifada) was documented on several occasions.

While the BBC refrained from informing its audiences of those cases (and others) of abuse of medical facilities, it did find it appropriate to repeatedly amplify falsehoods from a political NGO involved at the time in the ‘lawfare’ campaign against Israel and from a representative of one of the organisations operating ambulances in the Gaza Strip – the PRCS – see for example here, here and here.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.

“Our ambulances are often targeted although they are clearly marked and display all signs that they are ambulances,” said Dr Bashar Murad, director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) emergency and ambulance unit, which lost at least two members of staff.

“The army should be able to distinguish from the air that what they are targeting are ambulances.”

Amnesty International said attacks on health facilities and professionals were prohibited by international law and amounted to war crimes.”

The abuse of medical facilities protected by international conventions during conflict is obviously an issue of interest to international journalists. However, as we see from the examples above, the BBC’s reporting of such abuses lacks consistency.

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Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

Comparing BBC reporting on ISIS and Hamas tunnels

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

At around 8:30 a.m. on the morning of November 27th an incident took place along the border in the south Golan Heights.

“Soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit had crossed the security fence with Syria to conduct an “ambush operation,” while remaining inside Israeli territory, when they came under attack from small arms fire, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

They returned fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells.

In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a truck “that had some sort of machine gun on top of it” and killed the four terrorists who were riding in it. […]

According to the IDF, the four men were members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group in Syria that is connected with the Islamic State. […]

The incident was the first major confrontation between Israeli forces and Islamic State affiliated terrorists in the Golan, though Israel has clashed with other fighters on the Syrian side of the border several times.”

The incident received coverage on the BBC Arabic website on the same day. Bizarrely, the article was tagged “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” even though it obviously has nothing to do with that subject matter.

During the night between November 27th and 28th, a building used by the ISIS linked terrorist group was struck by the Israeli air force.

“The IDF said Monday that the target in the overnight airstrike was an “abandoned UN building that has been used by the Islamic State as an operations center along the border in the southern Syrian Golan Heights,” adding that “the compound was the base for yesterday’s attack against IDF forces.”

“This is an additional response to yesterday’s attack, and it is aimed at preventing the terrorists from returning to the installation which poses a significant threat,” the IDF said.”

In the early afternoon of November 28th the BBC News website published a report concerning that strike and the previous day’s incident – which had hitherto gone unreported in English.golan-incident-report

Headlined “Israeli aircraft target IS position in Syrian Golan Heights“, the article opens with an account of the last of the story’s events.

“The Israeli Air Force has bombed a building used by Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, Israel’s military says.

The air raid targeted an abandoned UN peacekeeping facility used as a base for an attack on Sunday against Israeli soldiers on Israeli-occupied territory.

The four militants behind that attack were killed in an earlier strike.”

Readers are not provided with any explanation as to why the UN building was “abandoned” and are not reminded that the so-called ‘demilitarised zone’ has long since ceased to meet that definition, with UNDOF forces having largely retreated from the area. Moreover, towards the end of this report readers find the standard – but now irrelevant – BBC mantra concerning the Golan Heights.

“Israel seized the region in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973.

Both countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which a UN peacekeeping force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.”

Only in the sixth paragraph do readers find out about the attack that sparked events.

“In Sunday’s incident, Israeli soldiers came under machine-gun and mortar fire, according to the Israeli military.

The air force bombed a vehicle carrying the assailants, whom the military said were members of the IS-linked Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, a Syrian group formerly called the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade.” [emphasis added]

Not only did the IDF ‘say’ that the four terrorists were members of the ISIS linked group: the BBC refrains from informing its audiences that ISIS later published their photographs.

Readers are not provided with any further information concerning Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed or its recent internal conflicts. Neither are they reminded that one of the groups making up that organisation – the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade – kidnapped UN forces in 2013. Readers are not given any information concerning the size of the area controlled by the ISIS affiliated group adjacent to Israel’s border and the Syrian civilians living in that region have not been the topic of any BBC coverage.

BBC coverage of Choudary conviction ignores his BBC appearances

Like many other UK media organisations, the BBC produced considerable coverage of the story of the conviction of British Islamist extremist Anjem Choudary which broke on August 16th.

BBC audiences heard reports on Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News‘, ‘The World Tonight‘ and ‘PM‘. Listeners to the BBC World Service heard a report on ‘Newshour‘. Television audiences also saw reports on the story – for example here and here. Visitors to the BBC News website found reports on its UK page – for example here and here – and an article by the BBC’s home affairs correspondent titled “How Anjem Choudary’s mouth was finally shut” appeared in its magazine section.Choudary magazine

As is the case in some of the other reports, in that article Dominic Casciani referred to Choudary’s relationship with members of the media.

“He would greet the journalists with a smile, and some guile, dressed up as charm.

One day outside Regent’s Park Mosque (he was banned from ranting inside its premises) he told the crowd he was honoured that I had turned up to hear him speak. He liked playing games. It gave him a sense that he was winning.” […]

“Choudary loved the limelight and revelled in media attention.” […]

“He [Choudary] tried in vain to get the Supreme Court to stop the prosecution. He asked some journalists if they would act as character witnesses (I wasn’t one of them).”

In the Newshour report, presenter James Coomarasamy remarked:

“And in Britain he’s been a fairly ubiquitous sort of figure. This is not someone – for listeners around the world – this is not someone who’s only reached…ehm…supporters via Youtube or via other social media. He’s been on mainstream news programmes quite regularly, hasn’t he?”

But in none of the above reports did BBC journalists acknowledge that their own corporation repeatedly provided Choudary with a platform. Following an interview with Choudary on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme in December 2013 in which he controversially refused to condemn the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby, we noted here that:

“Of course there can be no doubt that the BBC editors who decided to interview Choudary for that programme knew in advance exactly what kind of responses they were going to get from him. After all, like the proprietors of some Victorian freak-show seeking to attract audiences by way of the ‘shock factor’, the BBC has been wheeling out Choudary and his template propaganda for over a decade, including a ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2003 in which he refused to condemn the Mike’s Place suicide bombers, another ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2005 in which he likewise refused to condemn the London terror attacks, participation in ‘The Big Questions’ and ‘Newsnight’ and an appearance on ‘Newsnight’ in May 2013 (also promoted on the BBC News website) in which his stance on the brutal murder of Lee Rigby was made amply clear. 

Beyond his tawdry ‘shock factor’ which is exploited to the full by the BBC, Anjem Choudary does not represent one of those “significant stands of thought” which the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines pledge to reflect and represent. His bigoted rants and apologist attitude to terrorism reflect the views of no more than a minuscule proportion of British citizens and such views certainly are not embraced by the vast majority of people who share his faith. And yet, following the latest round of criticism in December, the BBC felt the need to defend its amplification of the abhorrent views of an anti-democratic supremacist.

“A BBC spokeswoman said: “We have given great consideration to our reporting of the Woolwich murder and the subsequent trial, and carried a wide range of views from across the political and religious spectrums.

“We have a responsibility to both report on the story and try to shed light on why it happened. We believe it is important to reflect the fact that such opinions exist and feel that Choudary’s comments may offer some insight into how this crime came about.”Choudary Newshour

In both the ‘Newshour’ report and in his written article, Dominic Casciani describes Choudary as having “used his megaphone to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of Britain”. If the BBC now recognises that, one must of course ponder the question of why it saw fit to so frequently provide him with a microphone no less pernicious than his megaphone.

It is of course precisely that factor which has over the years prompted repeated criticism of the BBC’s frequent showcasing of Choudary. A recent article in the Telegraph notes that:

“…Choudary became a regular on many of the corporation’s flagship news programmes including Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today.

During his trial Choudary described how he would “bait” the media with controversial statements and relished appearing on air.

The court heard how he had hundreds of media contacts who he would tip off before high profile demonstrations and stunts, including 31 journalists from the BBC.

Last night Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “The BBC has given this man hours of airtime down the years providing him with a platform to express his views.

“It was never with the intention of adding to the debate but simply for shock value. “Choudary TV news

But if the BBC’s funding public is under the impression that this case will perhaps prompt some overdue introspection on the topic of the corporation’s provision of platforms for extremists, a response from a BBC spokesman which appears in a Daily Mail article may indicate that such hopes are premature.

“A BBC spokesperson said: ‘This interview took place 3 years before today’s court ruling. It is important to acknowledge that such opinions exist within the UK, throughout the segment Anjem Choudry’s views were robustly challenged by our presenter and countered by Lord Carlile, the government’s former anti-terrorism adviser.'”

Obviously some at the BBC still don’t get it.

Related Articles:

Anjem Choudary’s BBC appearances ignored in reports on his arrest

BBC interviewee’s group noted in terrorism study

The BBC, ‘democratic principles’ and the Jihadist recruiter

BBC does a makeover on Sinai ISIS group’s language yet again

Back in May we noted that a backgrounder produced by BBC Monitoring titled “Sinai Province: Egypt’s most dangerous group” included the following inaccurate information.

“Sinai Province started by attacking Israel with rockets, but after the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 it focused on Egypt’s security services, killing dozens of soldiers.”

That inaccurate information reappeared in an insert found in an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 4th under the title “Egypt ‘kills head of Islamic State’s Sinai branch’“.

Wilayat Sinai art insert

As was noted here at the time:

Sinai Province (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) emerged in 2011 after the ousting of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.  Its activities began with attacks on the oil pipelines running between Israel and Egypt and on July 30th of that year it attacked a police station in El Arish, killing six people. On August 14th 2011 the Egyptian army launched ‘Operation Eagle’ to tackle the insurgency and four days later a combined terror attack took place along the Israeli-Egyptian border resulting in the deaths of eight Israelis.

On August 5th 2012 – just over a month after Mohammed Morsi became president of Egypt – an Egyptian army post near Rafah was attacked and more than 15 Egyptian security personnel were killed. The terrorists proceeded to the Kerem Shalom crossing in stolen vehicles and briefly breached the border. Two days later the Egyptian army launched ‘Operation Sinai’. On September 21st Ansar Bayt al Maqdis launched a terror attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border in which an Israeli soldier was killed.

In other words, the BBC’s claim that “Sinai Province started by attacking Israel with rockets” is not accurate: serious cross-border attacks also took place. The claim that attacks on Egypt’s security services began “after the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013” is also clearly inaccurate.”

As the insert shows, the BBC is aware of the fact that the organisation formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis “changed its name” in November 2014. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the article readers are told that:Wilayat Sinai art main

“The Egyptian military says it has killed the head of the Sinai branch of so-called Islamic State (IS), along with dozens of its fighters.

It said Abu Duaa al-Ansari was killed in a series of air strikes on fighters of the Sinai Province – or Ansar Beit al-Maqdis – group.”

Notably, the article does not inform BBC audiences of the collaboration between Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province) and Hamas.

At the end of the report readers are told that:

“On Wednesday, a video said to be from the IS Sinai affiliate issued a rare direct threat to Israel, saying it would soon “pay a high price”.”

As the Jerusalem Post reports, the video in fact included threats against Jews.

“”This is only the beginning, and our meeting [will be] in Rome and Beit Al-Maqdis [Jerusalem],” the video’s narrator was quoted as saying, according to a translation by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI). 

“Oh Jews, wait for us. The punishment [we have prepared for you] is severe and soon you will pay a high price,” threatens the narrator.”

Ha’aretz adds:

“”Jews will not remain in Palestine, we will turn it into a graveyard for Jews,” Israeli media quoted the video as saying. […]

The video refers to Israel as “El Yahud” or the Jews, rather than Israel.”

As readers may recall, this is not the first time that the BBC has done a makeover on the Sinai-based ISIS affiliate’s language.

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BBC News website recycles previous Golan Heights inaccuracies

Hot on the heels of his audio report from the Golan Heights which was broadcast on June 15th on BBC Radio 4, Andrew Hosken produced a written article on the same subject for the BBC News website’s Middle East page’s ‘Features’ section on June 20th – “Syrian conflict: The view from Golan Heights” –  which suffers from many of the same factual inaccuracies.Hosken Golan written

Hosken’s report opens with a description of his visit to a chocolate factory. Seeing as that factory is located in Kibbutz Ein Zivan, it is reasonable to assume that he would have noticed the nearby border fence and, just beyond that, the town of Quneitra.

When the Six Day War ended with the ceasefire of June 10th 1967, Quneitra was left under Israeli control and remained so until the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Under the terms of the 1974 agreement between Israel and Syria, Israel evacuated territory it had captured during the Yom Kippur war as well as some 60 square kilometers in the Quneitra area, captured in 1967. Following the 1974 agreement, ITN reported that “Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad personally hoisted the Syrian flag over the ruined town of Kuneitra [Quneitra] on Wednesday (June 26) to mark the end of seven years of Israeli occupation”.

Nevertheless, readers of this report by Hosken were again told that the Israeli Golan is 54.5 square miles larger than is actually the case and that the border is “the 1967 ceasefire line” rather than the 1974 line.

“Territory encompassing most of the Golan Heights, approximately 500 square miles, was captured by Israel in the last stages of the so-called Six Day War of 1967.

Israel effectively annexed the land in December 1981 when it officially extended Israeli law and government to the Golan.

The “border” between Israeli-occupied land and Syria is now the 1967 ceasefire line that is enforced by the United Nations.”

The mandate of the UNDOF forces in the area is to “maintain” and “supervise” – rather than ‘enforce’ – the 1974 agreement.

The article portrays Hizballah as “Islamist militants” rather than an international terror organization.

“Assad has been heavily supported by Iran and, in particular, the Islamist militants funded and backed by Tehran, Hezbollah. Hezbollah has vowed to destroy the state of Israel.”

In common with the audio report, the population of the Golan Heights is inaccurately portrayed as being over a third smaller than is the case and the location of the Druze residents of the Golan is described in confusing terms.

“Of the 30,000 or so people in Israel-occupied Golan, fewer than half – about 14,000 – are Jews. The rest are mainly Druze Arabs, who straddle the 1967 ceasefire line.”

Visiting Moshav Yonatan, Hosken tells readers that:

“The village lies in south-eastern Golan just four miles from the ceasefire line. On the other side, so-called Islamic State is believed to be fighting Assad’s Hezbollah-backed forces.”

In fact, Yonatan is located in the central Golan and the ISIS affiliated groups (which have of late been fighting other rebel groups more than Assad and his allies) are positioned further to the south.

Despite the existence of documentation, Hosken once again tells BBC audiences that:

“…Israel believes a small number of Syrian Druze are being used in sporadic attacks against Israelis in the Golan Heights by Hezbollah” [emphasis added]

As noted here previously, the topic of Hizballah and Iranian activity on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights has been under-reported by the BBC in the past and so it is good to see a journalist finally giving some air-time and column space to that issue. It is however a pity that such long overdue reporting is marred by very basic factual inaccuracies.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service reduces Golan Heights population by a third

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech

BBC World Service reduces Golan Heights population by a third

As regular readers will be aware, it is extremely rare for BBC audiences to be provided with the background information necessary for their understanding of the events which preceded Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights in 1967.

All the more refreshing, therefore, was Andrew Hosken’s introduction of some context into the opening of his June 15th report for BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ (from 14:07 here), although the rest of his report was dogged by factual inaccuracies.

Reporting from a lookout point in the south Golan Heights, Hosken told listeners that:

“Before 1967 Syrian troops positioned their artillery here and used it to devastating effect to shell Israeli positions down below.”

Kibbutz Ha'on from the Golan Heights

Kibbutz Ha’on from the Golan Heights

Those “positions” were of course the civilian communities lying at the foot of the Golan Heights such as Tel Katzir, Ha’on and Ein Gev, as was noted in the recording from a tourist information point which followed Hosken’s introduction.

“Syria took advantage of its topographical superiority on the Golan Heights and for nineteen years relentlessly attacked the northern Israeli communities below.”

Hosken continued:

“So now tourists come to enjoy the view of the Sea of Galilee. The Israeli army captured most of the Golan Heights – some 500 square miles – from Syria in the last stages of the Six Day War and Israelis have occupied it ever since.”

The actual area of the Israeli Golan Heights is 1,154 square kilometers or 445.5 square miles. Listeners then heard the same tourist information recording again:

“An entire generation of children spent part of their childhood in bomb shelters and as a result was nicknamed ‘the bomb shelter children’.”

Hosken next proceeded to Moshav Yonatan which for some reason he described as being “not far from the shores of the Sea of Galilee” even though it is a 28 km drive away.

“But just four miles away from where we are, across the ceasefire lines of the 1967 Six Day War, there is the so-called Islamic State actually fighting the forces of President Bashar al Assad…”

The ceasefire lines are actually those which came into being in 1974, after the Yom Kippur War. After having asked a local resident the somewhat bizarre question of whether he prefers to have ISIS or Hizballah on his doorstep, Hosken continued:

“Of the thirty thousand or so people in the Israeli occupied Golan, less than half – around 14 thousand – are Jews. The rest are mainly Druze Arabs who straddle the 1967 ceasefire line.”

As of 2014 the population of the Golan Heights was actually 45.7 thousand – 19,900 of whom were Jews and 21,900 Druze. The claim that the Druze “straddle the 1967 ceasefire line” is presumably intended to mean that in addition to Druze residents of the Israeli Golan Heights, there are also Druze communities in Syria. Hoskens went on:

“But Israel believes that a small number of Syrian Druze are being used in sporadic attacks against Israelis in the Golan Heights by Hizballah – the militant Islamist group that is backed and funded by Iran.” [emphasis added]

The involvement of some Syrian Druze in attacks along the border is not a matter of ‘belief’ and it is of course notable that Hosken refrained from using the more accurate term ‘terrorist organisation’ when describing Hizballah.

An unidentified contributor then correctly told listeners that Hizballah’s activity along the Israel-Syria border “has nothing to do with the Syrian civil war – that’s part of Hizballah’s war against Israel” but – despite being serially under-reported by the BBC – that topic was not explored further.

After a contribution from an additional interviewee, Hosken closed his report as follows:

“For many IS remains the most immediate security threat but concern about the growing influence of Iran is now being felt across the region. But possibly with serious consequences for the world, it is being felt most acutely in Israel.”

One can of course reasonably assume that there are people in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere who are feeling “the growing influence of Iran” at least as acutely as Israelis. Apparently though, the BBC believes that their concerns will not have “serious consequences for the world”.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s Knell amplifies Hamas PR while sidestepping ISIS-Hamas collaboration

For nearly two and a half years the BBC has managed to avoid producing any serious reporting on the subject of collaboration between Hamas and the ISIS franchise operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

Back in August 2013 the BBC’s Yolande Knell told audiences that:

“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.”

Failing to provide any objective information concerning those Egyptian claims, she then promoted the following statement from Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad:

“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed [sic] said.

“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.”

In October 2014 the BBC told its audiences that:

“Egyptian media accuses Gaza’s Hamas administration of aiding militants in Sinai. Hamas denies the charge.”

Since then the topic of collaboration between Hamas and Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) has been the subject of numerous articles and reports from a variety of outlets (see for example here, here, here, here, here and here) but not only has the BBC failed to adequately address the topic in that time, it has even promoted a conflicting narrative.

On March 29th 2016, Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for BBC television news programmes which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel on alert for attacks by Islamic State fighters in Sinai“. Notably, the word terror does not appear at any point during Knell’s narration and in the synopsis ISIS terrorists in Sinai are described as “militants” and “extremists”.Knell ISIS Sinai report

Knell’s report begins in Eilat where she takes a trip on an Israeli navy boat and then proceeds to the between Israel and Egypt.

“Recently the so-called Islamic State has made threats. A high state of alert extends along Israel’s 240 kilometer border with the Sinai.” […]

IS fighters have made the Sinai into another Middle East stronghold. Here they’re mostly targeting Egyptian security forces but they’ve also struck at Israel. […]

Israel and Egypt admit little publicly but they’re known to be sharing intelligence. Here there’s a constant threat of surprise attacks by Islamic extremists. What increasingly worries both Israel and Egypt is links between militants in the Sinai and groups in Gaza, which is nearby.”

Knell then goes on to make the following statement, notably failing to remind viewers of Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation:

“This month Egypt’s interior minister accused the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, of helping Jihadists to kill the Egyptian public prosecutor last year, giving them training in the Sinai.”

Given that until that point the entire report related to ISIS, it is obvious that the uniformed viewer would conclude that Knell’s reference to “Jihadists” also means that same group. However – as the BBC itself reported at the time – Egypt does not attribute the murder of Hisham Barakat to the ISIS affiliated Wilayat Sinai group, but to the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, the Egyptian interior minister did not claim that the attackers had received training in Sinai, but in the Gaza Strip.

“On March 6, 2016, tensions between Egypt and Hamas increased when Magdi Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s minister of the interior, held a press conference where he accused Hamas of involvement in the assassination of Hisham Barakat, the Egyptian attorney general. The assassination, carried out in June 2015, was attributed to operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas vigorously denied the accusations but Egyptian sources have repeatedly claimed that Hamas provides military support for Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, including training them in the Gaza Strip.”

Knell continues:

“Palestinians are also alleged to have treated injured IS fighters. I cross into Gaza where Hamas officials strongly deny the claims.”

Viewers then hear once again from Ghazi Hamad.

“We will not allow for anyone from Gaza now to do anything against or to damage or to harm the national security of Egypt and we will not allow for anyone from Sinai to come to use Gaza as a shelter.”

Sharp-eared viewers may have noted Hamad’s use of the future tense and the word “now”. That may well be linked to the fact that a senior Hamas delegation visited Cairo earlier in the month to try to defuse tensions with Egypt. The BBC did not report that visit, so viewers will naturally be unaware of that crucial context to Hamad’s words.

In this report Yolande Knell has once again avoided providing audiences with any serious, objective reporting on the topic of Hamas’ long-standing collaboration with ISIS in Sinai whilst at the same time yet again providing amplification for Hamas’ public relations messaging. She has also misled viewers with regard to the Egyptian allegations concerning Hamas’ collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood in the murder of an Egyptian official.

So much for the BBC’s claim to be the “standard-setter for international journalism”.

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