BBC News’ televised coverage of missiles attacks on Israel July 30 – August 3

In our previous post we looked at coverage of the hundreds of missile attacks on Israeli civilians between July 30th and August 3rd inclusive on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. In this one we will look at coverage of the same events by the BBC’s correspondents on the ground in Israel at the time: Orla Guerin, Bethany Bell and James Reynolds.Missiles filmed 1

To recap: on July 30th 140 missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip. On July 31st 102 missiles were launched, 17 of which were intercepted and 76 hit Israel including one direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat. On August 1st over sixty missiles were fired and on August 2nd, eighty-six, of which 58 hit Israel and six were intercepted. On August 3rd 119 missiles were launched, of which 109 hit Israel and eight were intercepted.

Filmed reports broadcast on BBC television news during that time which supposedly showed the Israeli side of the story included three by Orla Guerin, one by Bethany Bell and two by James Reynolds.

Aspects of Orla Guerin’s report of July 30th (“Gaza crisis: Israel’s military strategy“) have already been discussed here. The only mention of missile fire at Israeli civilians in that report comes from Guerin’s interviewee Ya’akov Amidror.

“If Hamas will not stop launch missiles and rockets, as it did even today…”

Viewers did however see a full 20 seconds of footage of Israeli tanks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment in that 160 second-long report.Missiles filmed 2

Guerin’s July 31st report (“Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video“) in which she visited an air-force simulator has also been discussed here previously. No mention of missiles fired by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians appears at all in that 189 second-long report, but its last 59 seconds are all dedicated to footage of Israeli soldiers and more tanks and jeeps.

On August 1st Orla Guerin was to be found presenting a report inaccurately and misleadingly titled “Israeli soldier ‘captured’ by militants as ceasefire ends“. That report also opens with thirteen seconds of footage of Israeli tanks and in addition Guerin takes a ride on an Israeli naval vessel – or as she calls it, a “fast attack missile boat”. Towards the end of the report Guerin goes to visit Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

Guerin: “Back on dry land, the deserted streets of Kfar Aza. This Israeli kibbutz sits on the border with Gaza. Most residents have fled.”

Her interviewee shows damage to a building.

“Luckily this is a bomb shelter so it took most of the impact and you can see nothing actually penetrated the house.”

Guerin: “Noam Stahl is one of the few who remains after twelve incoming hits in recent weeks and the constant percussion of outgoing Israeli artillery.”Missiles filmed 3

But if viewers perhaps anticipated at this point that they may get to hear more about Mr Stahl’s experiences of living under terrorist missile fire not just in “recent weeks”, but for the past thirteen years, they would be disappointed. Orla Guerin had other priorities.

“Do you still believe in the idea of peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Do you think it can be achieved?”

On August 2nd Bethany Bell produced a report titled “Israeli forces continue search for soldier missing in Gaza“. With the exception of 14 seconds of footage, that entire 73 second-long report shows images of tanks, APCs and soldiers. Bell does tell viewers:

“…and Hamas has fired more rockets into Israel – about ten today. Sirens have been sounding over various parts of central Israel and along the border with the Gaza Strip…”

James Reynolds produced a report on August 3rd titled “Gaza crisis: BBC reports from Israeli staging post“. All of the footage of that 94 second-long report shows Israeli tanks. Reynolds gives a decent, if short, representation of the scale and purpose of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels and also says:Missiles filmed 4

“But of course Israelis in this border area want the army to do much more than just find tunnels. They want the army to stop all rocket fire, all mortar fire from Gaza towards Israel. And just before we started recording we heard an alarm here and everyone was told to get in their tanks. There was a warning of a mortar coming in. It didn’t land around this area but nevertheless I think it shows that the overall fight between Israel and Hamas continues…”

An additional report by James Reynolds later on the same date – August 3rd – appeared under the rather pompous title “Gaza conflict: BBC assesses Israel’s military campaign” and the first 30 seconds of that report (104 seconds all told) also show Israeli tanks and APCs. Reynolds then goes to Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

“Batya Holin lives in the border village of Kfar Aza – a target of Palestinian rockets. Ninety percent of her neighbours have fled their homes.”

Holin: “I want that all the missiles will stop. I really want that all our people that live now outside of this area will come back and we can live quiet.”

Reynolds also interviews a reservist who says:

“You know the motivation is very high because before most of us came here we had like shooting in our places. I was caught up like next to my place in Tel Aviv. I was in the shelter and there was nothing I can do so I understand that we have to do Missiles filmed 5something and we have to come and finish here the thing with Hamas.”

Reynolds closes with the following odd and unsourced claim regarding the fallen soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin:

“Israel calls his death part of this country’s unfinished war of independence.”

During the five days in which the above six reports were produced, hundreds of missiles were fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians. BBC television news audiences heard of “about ten” rockets from Bethany Bell and of one mortar from James Reynolds. They heard general statements regarding missile fire from various interviewees, with all those interviews conducted in calm circumstances which contrast sharply with the type of footage from the Gaza Strip which has been shown on BBC television news in recent weeks.

There are no images of injured civilians or of crying women and children, no pictures from emergency rooms or hospital wards and only one short section of footage of minor damage to a building in six reports. The direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat on July 31st was not mentioned and no live footage of it or any of the other attacks were shown. Two of the reports note that many residents of area around the Gaza Strip have had to evacuate their homes because of missile fire from the Gaza Strip, but the BBC has to date not made any attempt to portray the experiences of those people.

The extensive useMissiles filmed 6 of footage of soldiers, tanks, APCs and other military equipment contrasts sharply with the fact that BBC audiences have not seen even one image of an armed terrorist, an anti-tank missile or mortar being fired by terrorists or a missile launcher in over four weeks of intense BBC coverage from the Gaza Strip. 

These filmed reports cannot be said to give BBC audiences a realistic and comprehensive idea of the Israeli side of the story or to reflect the scale and intensity of the ongoing attacks from the Gaza Strip in the period from July 31st to August 3rd. In common with the written coverage appearing on the BBC News website, they certainly cannot be said to support the claim made by the BBC complaints department that “BBC News has reported extensively on the series of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Palestinian militants into southern and central Israel in recent weeks”.  


Unnoted corrections to BBC report on Salafist terror cell

A headline appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on the evening of November 26th informed readers of “Palestinians killed in Israeli raid”.

Yatta headline MEp

The link leads to a short article titled “Suspected Palestinian militants killed in Israeli raid“, the second version of which is shown below. 


That 121 word article contained very sparse information and was amended after its initial publication to include two additional uses of the phrase “suspected militants” in addition to the two already included in its initial version. 

amended Yatta article

The incidents to which the report refers took place on the evening of November 26th in Yatta, south of Hebron. As Israeli security forces operated to arrest members of a Salafist group (in addition to others already arrested earlier) planning to execute terror attacks in the coming days, two members of the group were intercepted whilst travelling in a car. The two initial BBC reports failed to mention that the occupants of the vehicle fired at the security forces when the latter tried to stop them, stating only that:

“Two of the suspected militants were killed in their vehicle near the city of Hebron, Israeli officials said.” 

According to more detailed reports:

“The Palestinian terror suspects were in a car that had explosives and firearms in it, when they were met by the counterterrorism unit and additional special forces, who were sent to intercept the vehicle, a senior IDF source said.

Israeli forces opened fire at the car’s wheels, and the suspects fired back. Following an exchange of fire, the two suspects were killed, the source said.”

On the morning of November 27th, the BBC report underwent significant changes and the later version now reflects the fact that an exchange of fire took place.  

“Two of the militants were killed in a shoot-out when security forces tried to arrest them, near Hebron, a domestic intelligence official said.”

yatta later version Weds am

The link to the article on the Middle East page was also amended to better reflect the actual events:

Yatta headline ME p version 2

The original BBC report stated:

“According to security agents, the network was planning attacks on Israel in the coming days.”

It neglected to mention that the cell was also planning attacks against the Palestinian Authority.

“The IDF said the organization to which the two belonged had over the past months attempted to set up an extensive military infrastructure across the West Bank. The organization had planned to target Palestinian Authority structures and personnel, in addition to Israeli soldiers and settlers, the statement said.”

That omission was rectified in the later version of the report:

“Officials said the cell had planned a series of attacks in the coming days.

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority were among their targets, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service said, according to the AFP news agency.”

The first two versions of the BBC report also stated:

“Members of the [Salafi jihadist] movement are thought to operate in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

In fact, the operation of Salafist groups in both those areas (as well as in the neighbouring Sinai Peninsula and in Syria) is well-known – rather than merely “thought” to exist – with the BBC itself having reported on Salafists in the Gaza Strip and a Hizb ut Tahrir rally (not reported by the BBC) having taken place in Ramallah last July. Amos Harel writes in Ha’aretz:

“The presence of the Salafis, most of whom are not violent, is now being felt in the West Bank, nearly a decade after they established themselves in the Gaza Strip. Last year, saw a rise in their organized operations, most of which are not political and do not involve terror activity. In East Jerusalem, in particular, one stream called Hizb a-Tahrir stands out, though its activities aren’t violent. Still, there have recently been large assemblies of Salafist groups at several locations in the West Bank, including in the Hebron area. “Suddenly, from nowhere, you hear that 30,000 people are attending a gathering at the stadium in the South Hebron Hills,” a senior military official told Haaretz.

[…] On the margins of the Salafist movements, there is a violent jihadist arm under the influence of al-Qaida’s violent ideology, which has already manifested itself in cells in the Gaza Strip. One can assume that the increased activity of factions with similar ideologies, both in the Sinai Peninsula and especially in the murderous Syrian civil war, strengthens support for them in the West Bank.”

Again, the later version of the report corrected that inaccuracy:

“Salafist jihadists – ultra-conservative Islamists who espouse violence to realise their political objectives – are active in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser extent in the West Bank.”

Whilst it is good to see the BBC News website correcting its own mistakes, no notification of the changes made is provided to those visitors to the site who read the earlier – inaccurate – versions of the article during the eleven or so hours that they were left up on the website. Having already read the report, those readers are unlikely to bother revisiting it just to check if the BBC has made any amendments. Once again, this underlines the need for a dedicated page showing corrections and amendments on the BBC News Ashkelonwebsite.   

Also on November 26th, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip carrying a grenade was apprehended near Kibbutz Kfar ‘Aza after managing to infiltrate the border fence. On the same evening, residents of Ashkelon had to rush to their air-raid shelters as the siren warning of incoming missiles from the Gaza Strip sounded. The missile fell short, landing in the Gaza Strip and endangering the local population there. Neither of those incidents was reported by the BBC.