Revisiting two BBC News website reports from February

As Gaza Strip based terror factions launched rocket and mortar attacks against civilians in southern Israel last week, the Lebanese TV station al Mayadeen aired a video of an attack which had taken place along the Gaza-Israel border nine months earlier.

“A Hezbollah-connected Lebanese television channel on Tuesday broadcast never-before-seen footage of an attack on a group of Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border in February, in which an explosive device was set off along the security fence. […]

The footage, from February 17, shows one soldier wearing protective gear walking up to the Gaza security fence and taking down a Palestinian flag that had been affixed to the fence east of the city of Khan Younis.

As he walks over to the other three servicemen in his patrol, a tripwire connected to the flagstaff sets off a bomb that had been buried nearby.

Two of the soldiers were seriously injured in the attack. The other two sustained moderate wounds, the Israel Defense Forces said at the time.”

In fact another video of the same attack had been released some ten days after the Popular Resistance Committees had claimed responsibility for the attack on February 17th.

Following that February attack the BBC News website produced two reports:

Israel Gaza: Four Israeli soldiers injured in border blast

Israel Gaza: Air strikes follow bomb blast on Gaza border

As noted here at the time, in the first report BBC audiences were told that:

“No group has so far said it was behind Saturday’s explosion, which happened at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) east of the town of Khan Younis.”

Not only was that statement incorrect when it was first published on February 18th – the PRC had claimed responsibility the previous day – but when, two months later, the BBC corrected an additional error in the first report (the same inaccuracy however remains uncorrected in the second article) that inaccurate claim was left standing.

Photo credit: ITIC

Relatedly, the BBC’s profile of the Popular Resistance Committees has not been updated since 2005.

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Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

h/t AB

When the BBC News website reported the November 11th incident east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip in which an Israeli Special Forces officer was killed and another wounded in an exchange of fire that also left six Hamas members and one PRC operative dead, it correctly noted that following the incident, seventeen rockets had been launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian communities.

However, several other BBC reports have erased those rocket attacks and/or the fact that all the Palestinians killed in the incident were members of terror groups.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ on November 12th were informed in a news bulletin (from 24:47 here) that: [emphasis in bold added]

“Israeli Special Forces have carried out a raid on the Gaza Strip. An Israeli officer, a Hamas military commander and another six Palestinians were killed during the operation.” [emphasis added]

No mention was made at all of the subsequent launch of 17 missiles at Israeli civilian targets by Gaza Strip based terrorists.

In a news bulletin aired in the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on the same day (from 01:04:30 here), listeners were told that:

“An Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians including a militant commander have been killed in the Gaza Strip during what was reported to have been an intelligence gathering operation by Israeli Special Forces It led to heavy Israeli air strikes and the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Bateman likewise told listeners that “among the seven Palestinians killed was a local commander of Hamas’ armed wing” and failed to note the rocket fire.

The same story was the lead item in the November 12th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ and listeners were told by presenter Razia Iqbal (from 00:11 here) that:

Iqbal: “On Sunday a covert Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians including one Hamas commander and one Israeli soldier – a Lieutenant Colonel. The subsequent firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza threatens to upend an uneasy peace [sic].”

Later on in the item, while talking to Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad, Iqbal remarked:

Iqbal: “But there was also a big significant loss on your side. Apart from the six other people who were killed, a senior Hamas commander, Nur Baraka.”

Iqbal also subsequently failed to challenge her Hamas interviewee’s claim that “they [Israel] killed seven civilians yesterday”.

As we have already seen, in the November 12th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ presenter Ritula Shah likewise portrayed terror operatives as “Palestinians” and erased the subsequent rocket fire from audience view.

Shah: “An undercover operation that went awry and left seven Palestinians and an Israeli officer dead has sparked an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.”

The 17 rocket attacks were also omitted from a BBC News website report published on November 13th and from another BBC News website article that appeared on November 14th with early versions stating:

“The latest violence began after an Israeli special forces undercover operation in Gaza was exposed on Sunday, triggering clashes that left seven Palestinian militants and one Israeli soldier dead.”

There is no doubt whatsoever that the BBC knows full well that all seven of those killed near Khan Younis on November 11th were operatives in terror factions and that it is well aware that Gaza Strip based terrorists subsequently fired seventeen missiles at civilian targets in Israel.

There can hence be no justification whatsoever for the repeated withholding of that relevant information from BBC audiences on various platforms.

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BBC News website sources report on Gaza incident from Hamas

Some three hours after an incident took place in the southern Gaza Strip on the evening of November 11th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage, ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the headline “Israelis ‘kill Hamas commander’ in Gaza exchange of fire”. Several versions later, the report was re-titled “Israelis kill Hamas commander in undercover Gaza raid”.

Early Version

By the time that second headline was written, the IDF had clarified that the mission was not a “raid” but an intelligence-gathering operation.

Still later – some 14 hours after the incident occurred – the report was again re-titledEight killed in covert Israeli action in Gaza“.

Readers of the report’s earlier versions were told that:

“Seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, have been killed during an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say.”

And:

“Hamas officials and medics said seven Palestinians were killed, four of them militants.”

In fact – as had been reported by the Times of Israel and others by the time that version of the report was published – more than four of the dead were Hamas operatives.

“According to Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades commander Nour Baraka was killed along with six other Hamas members by Israeli special forces who drove a “civilian vehicle” three kilometers into Gaza from the border.”

The BBC’s Arabic language report on the same subject also clarified that point:

“Hamas said 7 of its members were killed and 7 wounded in the Israeli shelling.”

The later versions of the BBC News website report revised that statement:

“Six of the Palestinians killed belonged to Hamas – the militant Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip – and the seventh was a member of the militant Popular Resistance Committees, AFP news agency cited Palestinian officials as saying.”

AFP actually described its information as coming from “Gazan security sources” – in other words, Hamas.

The BBC News website report’s earlier versions stated:

Early Version

“Sirens later sounded in communities across southern Israel and rockets were fired from Gaza, without causing harm.

The Israeli military later said 17 rockets had been fired and three were shot down. It was not clear if the rockets had caused any damage.” [emphasis added]

That first sentence remained in later versions of the report.

In fact sirens were not sounded “across southern Israel” but in areas close to the Israel-Gaza Strip border. By the time the earlier version of the report was published it was known that:

“Following the clashes, at least 17 projectiles were fired at southern Israel as of 05:05 a.m Monday, three of which were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system, the army said with no immediate reports of casualties.

Light damage was caused to a number of greenhouses in the Eshkol region, locals said.”

Readers were not informed in any versions of the BBC’s report that flight paths to Ben Gurion airport had to be changed due to the rocket fire or that schools, colleges and train stations in the affected area had to be closed. 

The BBC’s earlier account of what happened during the incident was attributed mainly to Hamas:

Later Version

“Seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, have been killed during an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say.

An Israeli soldier was also killed and another wounded, the Israeli military said, in an ensuing firefight. […]

A spokesman for Hamas, the militant Islamist group that dominates Gaza, described the incident as a “cowardly Israeli attack”.

Hamas officials and medics said seven Palestinians were killed, four of them militants. The senior Hamas member killed was named as Sheikh Nur Barakeh, a commander of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades, the group’s military wing, in Khan Younis, in the south of the territory.

Hamas said Israeli special forces fired from a car around 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip.

An exchange of fire then broke out, with witnesses reporting tank shelling and explosions from Israeli air strikes in the area.”

That account obviously gives BBC audiences the mistaken impression that the “seven Palestinians” were killed before “an ensuing firefight” rather than during the exchange of fire. Readers were not told that the Hamas commander Barakeh was reported to be involved with Hamas’ tunnel programme.

Later Version

Later versions of the report (9 and 10) included a sub-section titled “What happened?” which quoted “Palestinian sources” and “Palestinian officials” without clarifying that the source was again Hamas.

The final part of all versions of the BBC’s report continued the corporation’s deliberately euphemistic editorial policy of portraying the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltrations along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as “protests”.

“More than 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since the end of March – most during weekly protests along the border at which thousands have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

Notably, BBC audiences have not been informed to date of the relevant and related issue of last week’s transfer of $15 million in cash from Qatar to Hamas.

Palestinian activist gets open mic for propagation of lies on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

On December 10th the afternoon version of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – hosted by Rebecca Kesby – included an item (available here from 00:45:00) concerning the death earlier in the day of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein. Kesby introduces the item as follows:Newshour 10 12 Kesby

“Now, tensions have been high between Israelis and Palestinians in recent weeks over contested religious sites in Jerusalem and the dispute over defining Israel as a Jewish state. In the past few hours a…eh…a Palestinian minister of the government, Ziad Abu Zain [sic] has died after an altercation with Israeli soldiers near Ramallah. He was taking part in a protest against Israeli occupation. Well, Abdullah Abrama [sic] was one of the coordinators of that demonstration and a short time ago I asked him what happened.”

The person presented as Abdullah Abrama answers:

“Today is, you know, it’s the international human rights day and before one week we visited the village Turmus Aya, me and the minister Ziad Abu Ein, and we hear to the problem of the people. They told us about the settlers from Adei Ad outpost: they confiscated their land and they attack them every day, every night…”

Kesby: “OK…OK…so there was a protest. But there was some sort of argument, wasn’t there, between the minister and…err…Israeli forces there? What were the circumstances of him being taken ill?”

AA: “Yeah…for this today we organize a small action; a volunteer day to support the farmers, to go with them to plant olive trees in their land. We go in the morning. We found a big number of soldiers. They stop us. They don’t allow us to arrive the land – the private land for the farmers there – and they start to use the violence against us. One of the soldiers coming to the minister and they put them down by his helmet. They beat him by helmet…eh…his helmet to the head of the minister Abu Ein and in that time we have tear gas smoke and sound grenades smoke. He fall down and he start to stop his breath. We took him directly to the ambulance and to the hospital but for sorry he’s die.”

Kesby: “Just…in terms of being clear about exactly what happened, so you’re saying an Israeli soldier stepped forward and struck the minister over the head with his helmet. Is that what you’re saying?”

AA: “Exactly, yeah. They strike him by his helmet, yeah, and the minister fall down. They use the violence against of us, the people there. We have farmers, we have old men, we have women. They beat all of us and as I told they don’t make any consideration for the minister or for the old men.”

Kesby: “So when the minister fell to the ground, I mean, was he still alive at that point? Or was there any indication that maybe he had a heart attack or there could be some other problem he was suffering?”

AA: “When he fell down he is in a coma. We saw him in a coma and we took him directly to the ambulance and to the hospital because he’s stop talking and, ya’ani, as I say is in a coma.”

So who is the person introduced by Rebecca Kesby as “Abdullah Abrama”? There appears to be no such person but an internet search for ‘Ziad Abu Ein’ and ‘helmet’ shows that the same story of the Palestinian official being hit on the head with a helmet by an Israeli soldier was also being heavily promoted elsewhere at the same time by veteran anti-Israel activist and leading figure in the Bil’in Popular Committees Abdallah Abu Rahma (also spelt Rahmah or Rahmeh).

Screenshot from RT footage of Abu Ein after altercation

Screenshot from RT footage of Abu Ein after altercation

Obviously Abrama/Abu Rahma’s account of events is for the most part fictitious. There is no evidence in any of the filmed footage taken at the event of Abu Ein having been deliberately hit on the head with a helmet and videos also show that he clearly did not immediately ‘fall down’ – either “in a coma” or otherwise. As has already been noted here, in between the altercation with a Border Police officer and his sitting down, Abu Ein managed to give an interview to the media and it is of course highly doubtful that he did that whilst “in a coma”. Neither is there any filmed evidence to support Abrama/Abu Rahma’s claim that “all” the participants in the demonstration were beaten.

Abrama/Abu Rahma also misleads BBC audiences with regard to the circumstances of the demonstration which was in fact organized to coincide with the presentation of a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the Adei Ad outpost.

So as we see, the corporation ostensibly committed to standards of accuracy and impartiality and claiming to be the ‘standard setter’ for international journalism has allowed its radio audiences worldwide to be completely misled by the unchallenged propaganda of a known political activist who is not even properly identified. If that were not bad enough, anyone else listening to that programme during the coming year in which it will be available on the internet or hearing it as a podcast will also be misled. Furthermore, this inaccurate and defamatory information broadcast by the supposedly reliable BBC has already been picked up and amplified by other media outlets, as this example from Radio New Zealand shows.

Obviously a media organization truly committed to the editorial standards claimed by the BBC would take steps to ensure that this grossly inaccurate item was quickly signposted as such in order to avoid misleading any more members of the public.

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