BBC’s Gaza casualty figures source continues lawfare campaign

Last week the Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini published an article concerning another chapter in the anti-Israel lawfare campaign.stats

“The European Council, a body that is made up of all European countries and is wider than the European Union, has adopted a report written by Eva-Lena Jansson, a representative of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, which accuses Israel of engaging in “an appalling pattern of apparently systematic unlawful killings” of innocent civilians.

The report is based on the Al-Mezan NGO, which is supported by Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. The NGO itself supports the BDS Movement and is part of the campaign that is based on denying Israel’s right to exist.

As always, European countries are funding bodies that issue reports, allegedly about “human rights,” while in fact waging a campaign against Israel’s actual existence.”

As readers may recall, during the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, the BBC quoted and promoted casualty figures based on information sourced, among others, from the NGO Al Mezan.

Two and a half years on, the BBC has still not provided its funding public with a satisfactory explanation as to why it uncritically amplified data – which had not been independently verified – that was sourced from organisations that make no secret of the fact that they are involved in a political campaign of lawfare against Israel or why it later rejected complaints which challenged the BBC’s use of patently partisan information from those sources.

Related Articles:

BBC content continues to mislead on Gaza casualties

BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

Lawfare agenda of BBC’s sources on Gaza casualty figures revealed once again

BBC News coy on lawfare NGOs it previously quoted and promoted

BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

As has been documented here on several occasions, the BBC has over the years repeatedly misinformed audiences on the topic of the causes of the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip.

That power crisis prompted demonstrations in September 2015 which went unreported by the BBC, as did Israeli efforts to ease the shortage.  

A recent exacerbation of the crisis brought about more demonstrations by Gaza Strip residents and this time the BBC News website produced two reports on the topic:gaza-power-crisis-1

Gaza electricity crisis: Hamas breaks up protest‘ – January 13th

Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages‘ – Rushdi Abu Alouf, January 14th

But did the BBC finally get round to giving its audiences full and accurate background information concerning the reasons why residents in the Gaza Strip only have a few hours of electricity a day in these two reports? In the first article readers were told that:

“Locals now get just four hours of power per day, instead of eight-hour cycles.

A vital plant was badly hit in fighting with Israel in 2014, but financial troubles and inter-Palestinian tensions have also contributed to the crisis.”

In fact, (and despite several inaccurate BBC reports to that effect which have remained uncorrected for two and a half years) Gaza’s power plant in Nusseirat was not “badly hit” in 2014: a fuel tank was damaged because terror organisations placed military assets close to the plant but it was back up and running within two months. As for the “financial troubles” and “inter-Palestinian tensions”, the report does not provide readers with any further information which would clarify that opaque terminology.

In the second article audiences find the following:gaza-power-crisis-2

“On Friday, the Hamas movement held the government of the Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, and President Abbas responsible for the dire electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said that the ongoing power shortage was “intentional” and aimed “to tighten the unfair siege on Gaza and create chaos and anarchy”.

Barhum demanded that Abbas, and the Fatah movement that he leads, “end this dangerous policy” and end the crisis, which has left Gaza with less than a quarter of its required electricity.

More than 10 years ago, Israel destroyed a large part of the power plant located in central Gaza after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas militants.

Since then, power shortages have had an impact on almost every aspect of life in Gaza.

Local and international organisations have suggested numerous solutions over the past decade to solve the crisis, leading to the reconstruction of the destroyed power station.”

So what is actually causing the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip? Ha’aretz recently reported that:

“Israel supplies the Strip with 122 megawatts of electricity on an ongoing basis, said Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). He added that a recent fault with one of the electricity lines had been repaired immediately.

In addition to the electricity from Israel, Egypt supplies 20-30 MW and the Gaza power station generates 60 MW, he said. […]

Mordechai blamed Hamas for the current electricity crisis in Gaza. “The leaders of Hamas enjoy electricity 24/7, while the rest of the population only gets three hours a day,” he said.

He also accused Hamas of using the funds it raises from taxing electricity for “personal interests and military equipment.” Every tunnel from Gaza has a generator beside it exclusively for the use of Hamas, Mordechai said.”

The Times of Israel provides a good overview of the background to the shortages:

“The latest crisis surrounding electricity supply in Gaza did not start overnight. It is the outcome of a long-running disagreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the payment of excise taxes for the fuel that is used in the power station in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority purchases the gas at full cost — including the excise tax — from Israel before it is transferred to Gaza. However, the PA announced in 2015 that it is no longer prepared to bear the full burden of the excise tax and told Hamas it needs to foot its share of the costs of buying diesel fuel for the power station in Gaza. The station constitutes the main source of energy in the Gaza Strip (apart from a small amount that comes from Israel and Egypt).

While the Palestinian Authority is nominally responsible for the Gaza Strip, particularly in official dealings with Israel, in reality, Hamas has been in charge since ousting PA forces, in a bloody uprising in 2007. Several rounds of reconciliation talks between the two have failed to reach an agreement, leading to these kinds of grey areas of responsibility.

Hamas, a terrorist organization which calls for Israel’s destruction, has refused to make any payments to Israel. The PA initially continued to pay the full cost of the fuel, but the disagreement was never resolved.

As a result, the Gaza Strip has seen drastic swings in the electricity supply. Each time the PA refuses to shell out the funds for the excise tax, the electric company in Gaza buys less fuel and in turn produces less electricity. This time, it appears that the crisis has become particularly severe, in light of the decrease in electricity supply from Egypt, due to technical problems with the power lines.”

There is of course no doubt that – did it wish to do so – the BBC could have provided its audiences with a similarly clear and factual explanation of the crisis. However, the corporation instead elected to steer audiences towards a version of events which implies that Israel is to blame, recycling inaccurate information and failing to adequately explain the dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority which is the real cause of the chronic electricity shortages.

However, one aspect of that second report is positive and noteworthy: BBC audiences found an extremely rare portrayal of Hamas’ intimidation of civilians and journalists and its practice of trying to silence foreign media coverage of unfavourable stories.

“Hamas’ police forces arrested dozens of people in northern Gaza for their involvement in the demonstration.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that “security personnel in the aftermath of the protest raided several houses and arrested a number of activists”.

The Associated Press said that one of its journalists was arrested, while a photographer for the French news agency AFP was reportedly hit in the face by a police officer’s gun when he refused to hand over his camera.

The foreign press had been told by Hamas not to cover the event. The photographer had to go to hospital and received stitches for a wound on his face.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the Foreign Press Association issued a statement concerning those incidents.

Related Articles:

BBC airs inaccurate report by Yolande Knell on Gaza infrastructure

The BBC and the ‘destroyed’ Gaza power plant

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

No BBC reporting on latest power crisis in the Gaza Strip

Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

BBC ignores latest Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza civilian district

Over the past two and a half years the BBC has produced numerous reports from or about the Gaza Strip district of Shuja’iya, many of which have focused on the topic of structural damage resulting from the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas while playing down the issue of the terror infrastructure in that neighbourhood. For example:Tunnel shafts Shujaiya

BBC’s Reynolds in Shuja’iya: still no reporting on what really happened

“This is the Shuja’iya neighbourhood and the destruction here is immense. Wherever you look buildings have been either hit or they’ve got bullet holes in them. Windows have been blown out and there is rubble all around me. Israel’s army says it went against this neighbourhood because it believed that Palestinian militants were digging tunnels from here to go across the border into Israel and that those militant groups led by Hamas were also carrying out rocket strikes from here.” [emphasis added]

BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

“One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Shejaiya, near the eastern border, where the Israeli military says it targeted Palestinian militants and their tunnels.” [emphasis added]

Yolande Knell’s Gaza borders campaign continues on BBC Radio 4’s PM

“There’s a single bulldozer working to clear a path through an enormous pile of rubble in Shuja’iya in Gaza. The scale of destruction here is overwhelming. Last month this area was pounded with tank fire and airstrikes as the Israeli military said it set out to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border raids and storing rockets. Dozens of local people were killed and thousands were left homeless.” [emphasis added]

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

“Yes, it’s interesting they use the word ‘massacre’ because Israel calls it a targeting of military sites. But for the people here; so many died they do call it a massacre.” [emphasis added]

Concurrently, since the end of that conflict the BBC has produced little content of any value in contributing to audience understanding of the issue of Hamas’ reconstruction of cross-border attack tunnels.

BBC News sidesteps the real issues in Hamas tunnel collapse story

Tepid BBC reporting on discovery of Hamas cross-border tunnel

Patchy and selective BBC News reporting of Gaza border incidents

In April 2015 the BBC’s Middle East editor told audiences that:

“Israel has walled and fenced Gaza so Hamas opened up another front – underground.”

Jeremy Bowen also misled audiences with an inaccurate description of the purpose of the tunnels:

“Hamas says the tunnels were part of an active defence aimed at military targets.”

On December 7th Hamas announced the deaths of two of its operatives working in a tunnel in Shuja’iya about half a kilometer from the border with Israel. Additional operatives are apparently missing since the tunnel’s collapse.

“Two Hamas terrorists were killed while working on an attack tunnel intended for an infiltration from Gaza into Israel collapsed in the territory near the border with Israel, according to a statement issued by the group.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said another Palestinian was injured in the incident. Hamas said they were working in a “resistance tunnel.””

This latest evidence of Hamas’ efforts to reconstruct its terror infrastructure in civilian neighbourhoods has once again gone unreported by the BBC and audiences continue to be deprived of the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of past or future Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip.

On the other hand, BBC News did find the time and the column space this week to ensure that its audiences were made aware of some short-lived “guerrilla artwork” in Tel Aviv.  

Related Articles:

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

BBC Gaza bureau’s Abu Alouf hides the Hamas tunnel elephant

 

 

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. 

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

Following the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem on November 18th 2014, the BBC News website produced a profile of the organisation with which the two terrorists were affiliated.Pigua Har Nof PFLP art

Two years later, that profile remains online with its inaccurate main illustrative photograph. The article’s presentation of the number of Israelis murdered in the Har Nof attack is also inaccurate: [emphasis added]

“It was also not clear how involved the PFLP leadership had been in the attack in November 2014 that saw two members of the group armed with axes storm a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem and kill four rabbis in the middle of their morning prayers.

A statement by the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades praised the “heroic operation” by Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, but did not specify whether the cousins had been instructed to carry out the attack.”

In fact, five people (four worshippers and a policeman) were killed during the attack and one additional victim succumbed to his wounds a year later but the BBC’s article has not been updated accordingly.

The article refrains from describing the PFLP as a terrorist organisation in the BBC’s own words, with that definition attributed to Israeli authorities in quotation marks:

“The PFLP leader was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in an Israeli prison for heading an “illegal terrorist organisation”…” 

Readers of the profile are not informed that the PFLP is defined as a proscribed terror organisation by the United States, Canada, Israel and the EU.

NGO Monitor recently produced a report concerning the financial support provided to various NGOs linked to the PFLP.

“Many European countries fund a network of organizations, some of which are directly affiliated with the PFLP, and others with a substantial presence of employees and officials linked to the PFLP. The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) include Addameer, Al-Haq, Alternative Information Center (AIC), Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committee (HWC), Stop the Wall, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). […]

Donors to the NGOs include the EU, the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Ireland, UK, Netherland, Germany, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, and the United Nations. Continued funding raises serious questions about due diligence and evaluation on the part of the governments and the UN, as well as compliance with domestic and international laws.”

Some of those NGOs have been directly or indirectly quoted and promoted by the BBC in its Middle East coverage – for example Addameer, Al Haq, Defence for Children International – Palestine and of course the PCHR, which received particularly extensive exposure during the 2014 conflict between Israel and terror organisations in the Gaza Strip and which was one of the sources behind the casualty figures amplified by the BBC at the time.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”  

Comparing BBC reporting on ISIS and Hamas tunnels

When in the summer of 2014 the BBC finally got round to providing its audiences with information about Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels thirteen days after the conflict began, the corporation was unable to describe the purpose of those tunnels to audiences in its own words.

Billed “Gaza ‘terror tunnels’ in 60 secs” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, the filmed report appeared under the equally interestingly punctuated title “Middle East crisis: Israel releases ‘Gaza tunnel footage'”. In the synopsis audiences were told that:tunnels vid 1

“Israel sent ground troops into Gaza on Thursday, saying the ground operation is necessary to target Hamas’ network of tunnels.

It has stated the tunnels pose a threat of terrorist attacks against the Israeli population.”

The film itself employed similarly qualified language:

Israel says tunnels like this are being used by militants to infiltrate its territory”.

“This Israel Defense Forces footage shows suspected Hamas fighters in bushes, firing on Israeli troops”.

Israel says it has been forced to send troops into Gaza to find and destroy tunnels like this one” [all emphasis added]

In contrast, five days after the operation to retake Mosul from ISIS began on October 16th 2016, the BBC’s Ahmed Maher was able to tell audiences that:tunnels-mosul-maher

“These tunnels are very important and a key element in the military strategy of the jihadist group.”

The BBC was similarly able to describe the purpose of the tunnels in its own words in the synopsis to Maher’s report.

“The tunnels have been mainly used as hideouts and escape routes by the militants.”

In an article by Richard Galpin published on October 25th under the title “Mosul battle: Four ways IS is fighting back” readers found a section sub-headed “Tunnels”.

“As the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces have advanced towards Mosul, regaining control of towns and villages which had been in the hands of IS, they have discovered networks of tunnels dug in many areas, a classic tactic for guerrilla warfare.

They seem to be primarily defensive, designed to protect the militants from air strikes, artillery and other attacks. Inside the tunnels troops have found sleeping bags, food supplies, water, and even electricity cables so the users have light.

The tunnels are often dug beneath buildings, including mosques, so the excavation work cannot be spotted. But the tunnels can also be used for surprise attacks.

In one of the most dramatic moments captured on video since the offensive began, an IS militant climbs out of a tunnel in a rural area and opens fire on a group of soldiers who had presumably thought they were on safe ground. The man then blows himself up before the soldiers can react.

It is assumed that there is a similar network of tunnels in Mosul city itself, which could enable IS fighters and their leaders to hide during the anticipated assault and if necessary escape.

Troops have found booby-traps in tunnels which the militants have been forced to flee, including one which had been attached to a copy of the Koran.”

Notably, the BBC has found no need to employ superfluous punctuation or qualifiers such as “Iraq says” when describing the existence and purpose of those tunnels in those and other reports.

Related Articles:        

BBC (sort of) gets round to telling audiences about Hamas tunnels

Twenty-three seconds of BBC reporting on Gaza tunnels

BBC fails to adequately inform audiences on terrorist tunnels (and worse)

BBC’s 2014 claim of an attack on a UN school shown to be inaccurate

On August 3rd 2014 the BBC told its audiences that Israeli forces had attacked a UN school in Rafah.

Tweet breaking UN school

Tweet w news UN school

BBC correspondent Martin Patience produced a filmed report titled “Gaza crisis: Chaos after deadly strike ‘at UN school’” in which he informed viewers that Israel was serially attacking UN schools.Patience 3 8 Rafah

“Eye witnesses say that it was an Israeli airstrike. It struck at the entrance of this UN school in the southern town of Rafah. Now it’s believed children are among the dead. We also understand that at least thirty others have been injured. Ah…now this is the third deadly attack on a United Nations school since this conflict began. Just last week Israel faced international condemnation after an attack on a UN school left at least 17 dead.” [emphasis added]

In an article which appeared on the BBC News website on the same day, quotes from UN officials were given amplification.

“UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the attack as a “moral outrage and a criminal act”.”

“In a strongly worded statement, Mr Ban called for those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law” to be held accountable.”

“Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: “The locations of all of these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times.

“They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea.””

An edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast on August 3rd 2014 is also available online. Two years on, listeners can still hear presenter Rebecca Kesby’s inaccurate allegations: [emphasis added]Newshour 3 8

RK: “Well the UN seems pretty convinced that it was an Israeli shell that hit their school. Robert Turner has been saying that it’s now the third such facility of theirs that your forces have hit. He’s very cross. He says that the UN keeps telling the Israeli forces the precise location of all their facilities where people are going to take shelter and they keep being hit.”

RK: “People listening to this will be very cross to hear this again – just three days after another attack on a UN school which provoked widespread condemnation around the world. You talk about surgical strikes and precision bombing but the evidence is very different.”

“On the question of the UN-run school that was hit in Rafah this morning: when will you know if it was your rocket that killed those ten people and injured those 30 others?”

“Excuse me, sir, but you’re telling Palestinians to evacuate from their homes and seek shelter. They seek shelter at UN schools. You then bomb the schools. Whether it’s near the school or not, it’s not safe for them there, is it?”

The Military Attorney General recently published the results of the investigation into that incident (section 7 here). [emphasis added]

“In media reports, as well as in the complaints and reports of NGOs and international organizations, it was alleged, that on August 3, 2014, at around 10:45, a number of civilians were killed and others injured, as the result of an IDF aerial strike in proximity to a Rafah school run by UNRWA. The number of fatalities varies from report to report, and ranges from seven to fifteen fatalities. According to the main allegation arising in the aforementioned complaints and reports, the strike took place a few meters from the gate of the school, which was at that time serving as a shelter for civilians who had evacuated their homes, at the exact moment when the gate was open, and was aimed at a motorbike that was passing through the area and its riders. The incident was subsequently referred to the FFA Mechanism for examination.

The factual findings, collated by the FFA Mechanism and presented to the MAG, indicate that the school was designated as a “sensitive site” on the relevant operational systems of the IDF. In accordance with the IDF’s operational instructions, any military operation to be conducted in the vicinity of such sites requires the adoption of special precautions. The fact that the school was serving at the time as a shelter for civilians who had evacuated from their homes was also noted on the relevant systems.

It was further found, that on 3 August 2014, the IDF observed three people riding on a motorbike, who were identified, on the basis of up-to-date intelligence information, as military operatives. From the moment that the decision to strike the operatives was made, the IDF carried out aerial surveillance on the motorbike’s path, and surveyed a wide radius of the estimated continued route of the motorbike, in order to minimize the potential for harm to civilians on the route or in proximity thereto. The final destination of the military operatives was not known to the operational authorities. The strike on the military operatives was planned for execution by means of a precise munition, with a reduced explosive load, in a way that would allow for the strike’s objective to be achieved, whilst minimizing the potential for harm to civilians or passing vehicles.

It was further found, that a period of time after the munition had been fired, and mere seconds before it reached its target, the motorbike entered a traffic circle with a number of different exits, and left it via one of them. The FFA Mechanism’s findings indicate that with the means that were at their disposal, and under the visibility conditions prevailing at that time, the operational authorities were not able to discern in real-time the group of civilians that were outside the school, in proximity to the route along which the aforementioned motorbike was travelling. It was further found that, in any case, at the moment upon which the motorbike exited the traffic circle and started to travel along the road bordering the wall which surrounded the school, it was no longer possible to divert the munition which had been fired at the motorbike.

The strike on the motorbike riders occurred immediately after the motorbike passed by the gate of the school. As mentioned above, it is alleged that as a result of the strike between seven and fifteen people in the vicinity of the school’s gate were killed (as indicated above, the number of fatalities varies from report to report). According to the findings of the FFA Mechanism, three military operatives were among the fatalities.

After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism, the MAG found that the targeting process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements.

The decision to strike was taken by the competent authorities, and the object of the attack was lawful – military operatives. The attack complied with the principle of proportionality, as at the time the decision to attack was taken it was considered that the collateral damage expected to arise as a result of the attack would not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated to result from it (essentially, it was considered in real-time that the strike would only harm the military operatives targeted). This assessment was not unreasonable under the circumstances, in light of the fact that aerial surveillance of the routes which the motorbike was predicted to take, which had commenced when the decision to strike was taken, had not shown any civilian presence on those routes.

Moreover, the attack was carried out in conjunction with various precautionary measures, such as the selection of the munition used to carry out the strike, which aimed to mitigate the risk to civilians and passing vehicles. It was also found that under the circumstances, the operational authorities had not foreseen that the strike on the motorbike would take place in the vicinity of the school, and that, in any case, at the time at which it became clear that the strike would occur in proximity to the school, they did not have the capacity to prevent the strike from taking place in that location. The fact that, in practice, civilians who were uninvolved in the hostilities were harmed, is a tragic and regrettable result, but does not affect the legality of the attack ex post facto.”

Obviously footnotes need to be added to the relevant reports still available online in order to clarify to members of the public that the claim that the UN school was attacked is inaccurate.

Likewise, a similar clarification needs to be added to the BBC News website article titled “Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” which is also still available online and in which audiences are told that:

“Locals have told the BBC there were no militants in or near the school.”

Since the end of the conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip two years ago, investigations into several of the incidents reported by the BBC have shown (see related articles below) that audiences were at the time given inaccurate and misleading information.

To the best of our knowledge, none of the specious reports which still remain available online (and form part of what the BBC terms ‘historical record’) have been amended to inform the general public of the outcome of investigations into the incidents and to correct inaccurate and misleading information included in their content.  The failure to take such necessary steps risks the waste of publicly funded resources on complaints relating to those reports due to the fact that the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that if content is still available online, it may legitimately be the subject of editorial complaints.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Martin Patience tells TV audiences that Israel attacks UN schools

BBC claims that Israel targeted a centre for the disabled in Gaza shown to be inaccurate

BBC reports on Wafa hospital shown to be inaccurate

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

Revisiting BBC reporting on July 2014 Shuja’iya market incident

BBC News passes up on the chance to correct Gaza misinformation

A BBC story from August 2014 still in need of clarification

Revisiting the BBC’s claims about a 2014 story from Rafah

Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

Revisiting the BBC’s claims about a 2014 story from Rafah

On July 21st 2014 the BBC News website published an article titled “Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500” in which readers learned that:

“Overnight air strikes in southern Gaza kill more than 30 members of two families in Khan Younis and Rafah, local officials say”.

On the same date the website also produced a photographic feature titled “Gaza crisis: Fear and funerals” which included two images relating to the family in Rafah which the BBC again described as having been killed by Israeli fire.

Siyam family 1

Siyam family 2

That incident was the subject of a subsequent investigation and the Military Attorney General recently published its findings (section 3 here). [emphasis added]

“In media reports, as well as in a complaint and in reports of NGOs and international organizations, it was alleged that on 21 July 2014, 12 members of the Siyam family were killed as the result of an IDF aerial attack in Rafah. According to the principal allegation raised by the abovementioned complaint and reports, members of the Siyam family left their residence and went into the street after the family home was damaged as the result of an aerial strike on an adjoining building. It was alleged, that at the time that the family was evacuating their residence, and while they were in the road, aerial fire was carried out against a number of the family members, resulting in their deaths. The different sources were not consistent as regards the various details relating to the event, or in regards to the type of munition alleged to have struck the family members. The incident was subsequently referred to the FFA Mechanism for examination.

The factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism and presented to the MAG indicate that no attack – aerial or otherwise – that could have resulted in a strike on the family as alleged was carried out by IDF forces in the area in question and on the relevant date. The FFA Mechanism also ruled out the possibility that the types of munition described in a number of the reports had been utilized.

Nonetheless, it was found that at the relevant time, and in close proximity to the Siyam family’s residence, terror organizations in the Gaza Strip fired a series of mortars, aimed at the territory of the State of Israel. A number of these launches were “failed launches”, wherein the mortar shells that were aimed at Israeli territory, fell within the territory of the Gaza Strip. Images showing the points of impact of the munitions that struck the Siyam family and the surroundings of their residence, which were provided to Israel by one of the organizations and transferred to the FFA Mechanism for examination, also indicate that the strike in question was not caused as the result of an aerial attack as alleged in the majority of the reports. The FFA Mechanism and the MAG Corps made representations to the legal representative of the organization which had claimed that the strike on the Siyam family had been caused by IDF munitions, in order for them to present evidence that would support such an allegation. These representations did not receive a response.

After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism, the MAG found, that contrary to the allegations, it could be concluded, with reasonable certainty, that the members of the Siyam family were not harmed as a result of IDF activity. As such, and in the absence of a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation.”

The two BBC reports inaccurately stating that members of the Siyam family were killed by an Israeli strike remain accessible online and are therefore potentially the subject of editorial complaints according to BBC editorial guidelines.

“However long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it.”

Clearly clarifications need to be appended to both the reports concerned in order to avoid any further misleading of audiences with inaccurate information and the potential waste of resources on handling avoidable complaints.

This incident once again highlights the fact that the BBC’s standard portrayal of casualty figures in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict does not adequately clarify to audiences that some of the civilian casualties were caused by the actions of Palestinian terrorist organisations. 

BBC’s ME bureau chief flags up Hamas treatment of journalists

On August 22nd the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief put out this Tweet:

Colebourn tweet

The link leads to the following statement from the Foreign Press Association (FPA):

FPA stmt

Readers may recall that two years ago, during the conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip, the FPA found it necessary to put out an even more strongly worded statement concerning Hamas’ treatment of foreign journalists at the time.

FPA statement Hamas Aug 14

Back then, however, BBC audiences were not informed – even via Twitter – of restrictions placed on journalists by the terror group.

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Mapping changes in the BBC’s disclosure of restrictions on journalists