False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

On the morning of November 13th the BBC News website published another report about the flare-up of violence which had begun the previous afternoon.

Originally headlined “Heavy Gaza-Israel fire traded overnight” and later re-titled “Israel-Gaza: Deadly fire traded across border“, the report underwent numerous amendments in the ten hours following its initial publication.

The use of the word “traded” – i.e. exchanged – in both those headlines obviously suggests equivalence between the actions of the two sides, as do the report’s carefully ‘balanced’ opening lines.

“Eight people have been killed in a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

More than 460 rockets have been fired into Israel by militants since Monday night, while Israeli aircraft have hit 160 militant targets in response.

Seven Palestinians, several of them militants, died in the strikes on Gaza, while a Palestinian civilian was killed in a rocket attack in southern Israel.” [emphasis added]

However, this story is not about comparable actions. It is actually about an attack – unprecedented in scale – which Hamas and other terror organisations chose to launch against Israeli civilians in southern Israel. The response of Israel to that attack was not equivalent as implied by the BBC: the response struck exclusively military – not civilian – targets after advance warnings were given.

So how was that story portrayed in the report itself?

The report makes use of four photographs: two from Israel and two from the Gaza Strip. The first narrow-angle image photographed in Israel is captioned “Buildings in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon were hit by rockets fired from Gaza”.

The original caption to that photograph however reads: [emphasis added]

“An Israeli man [apparently a property tax inspector – Ed.] inspects a house damaged by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon, on November 13, 2018″

In other words, the BBC chose to relabel a house as “buildings”.

The second picture photographed in Israel is captioned “Schools have been ordered to close in Israeli border communities as a precaution” and does not show any of the damage inflicted on homes and businesses on November 12th/13th.

The first of the two photographs taken in the Gaza Strip is a wide-angle shot captioned “Israeli aircraft struck the Hamas interior security headquarters in Gaza City”.

The second photograph likewise shows the result an Israeli strike and its caption tells BBC audiences that “Israel carried out air strikes when Sunday night’s firefight erupted”

In other words, readers of this report saw twice as many photographs of damage in the Gaza Strip than that in Israel and the one image which does show the results of terrorists’ rocket attack to the exterior of a house leads BBC audiences to believe that such damage occurred in one location – Ashkelon.

Civilian homes, businesses and a pre-school were also destroyed or damaged by direct hits in Netivot, Sderot and kibbutzim in Eshkol, Sha’ar HaNegev and Hof Ashkelon but that information does not appear anywhere in the BBC’s account of events in Israel. The fact that what the BBC described as “Sunday night’s violence” included the launching of 17 rockets from the Gaza Strip was erased from audience view and the BBC refrained from identifying the perpetrators of Monday’s attacks, while under-reporting the number of Israelis who needed medical care after they took place.

“After a brief lull following Sunday night’s violence, a barrage of rockets and mortars was launched towards Israel late on Monday, which Israeli medics said killed one person and injured 28.

A bus, which had reportedly been carrying troops, was hit by an anti-tank missile in the Shaar Hanegev region, seriously wounding a male soldier.

Overnight, a man was killed when a block of flats in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket. He was later identified as a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank who had been working in Israel.

Eight other people were injured in the attack, including two women who the Israeli ambulance service said were in a serious condition.” [emphasis added]

In contrast, the BBC’s portrayal of events in the Gaza Strip left readers in no doubt as to who had launched attacks. The account was not given in the BBC’s own words but paraphrased Israeli army statements and it gave details of three targets while failing to report that advance warning of the strikes was given and euphemistically describing members of terrorist organisations as “militants”.

“In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

It said they included Hamas’s military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and “a unique vessel” in a harbour in the south of the territory.

The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated. The IDF said the outlet “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said seven people were killed and 26 others injured in the strikes. At least four of the dead were militants; two are said to have been farmers in northern Gaza.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s report included ‘analysis’ from Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman reporting – readers were told – from “southern Israel”. Notably, Bateman’s reporting did not include any interviews with Israeli civilians affected by the heaviest ever barrage of rocket attacks launched by Gaza Strip terrorists and so BBC audiences went away with the mistaken impression that just one block of flats in Ashkelon was damaged in these attacks.

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BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

As we saw yesterday the BBC News website was not interested in telling BBC audiences about the numerous terrorists’ missiles which hit the homes and businesses of Israeli civilians in places such as Ashkelon, Sederot and Netivot on November 12th.

If readers are wondering whether the BBC’s domestic radio audiences got any better coverage, the answer to that question can be found by taking a look at BBC Radio 4’s November 12th edition of ‘The World Tonight’, presented by Ritula Shah.

Near the beginning of the programme (from 05:26 here) listeners heard a news bulletin in which newsreader Chris Aldridge indulged himself with a less than accurate and impartial description of an Israeli Special Forces operation the previous night.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Aldridge: “Around 300 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, prompting a wave of Israeli airstrikes. It follows what appears to have been a botched undercover Israeli operation in Gaza yesterday in which 7 Palestinians and one Israeli were killed. Our correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “A 19 year-old Israeli man was seriously hurt when a bus was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Strip. Israel said its fighter jets had targeted militant sites in Gaza in response to the barrage. Health officials in the Strip say two Palestinians have been killed – reportedly members of a militant faction. This significant escalation of hostilities makes the immediate prospects of a truce between Israel and Hamas even more unlikely, following a series of violent clashes in recent months which a UN and Egyptian brokered process was trying to calm. Militants in Gaza vowed to take revenge after yesterday’s incident in which undercover Israeli Special Forces were involved in an intense exchange of fire with Gaza based militants.”

By the time Radio 4 listeners heard that report homes in at least four Israeli communities had been hit by the terrorists’ missile fire and at least 34 people had needed medical treatment. Bateman however did not find that – or who fired the anti-tank missile; a detail also known by that time – worth mentioning.

Later on in the programme (from 30:00 here) listeners heard Ritula Shah describe members of terror factions merely as “Palestinians” and claim that the “escalation of violence” was happening – exclusively – “in the Gaza Strip” while concealing the fact that the rocket attacks were still ongoing as she spoke.

Shah: “An undercover operation that went awry and left 7 Palestinians and an Israeli officer dead has sparked an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli air force has conducted strikes on the territory in retaliation for rockets fired into Israel earlier today. Video footage showed the rockets being launched – white smoky trails against a blue sky – while sirens sounded to warn Israelis to take cover. Israel said it had struck more than 70 militant sites in Gaza in response to more than 200 rockets fired from there. For the people of Gaza this escalation of violence comes after apparent progress in an Egyptian and UN backed mediation process following a series of clashes between the two sides in recent months. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza 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.”

By the time Shah was speaking around 300 rockets and mortars – not 200 – had been fired at Israeli civilian targets. Predictably she adhered to the BBC’s standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’, concealing the fact that what she euphemistically portrayed as “protests” were in fact violent riots organised by terror factions and that a significant proportion of those killed were linked to those terror groups. Likewise Shah did not bother to inform listeners that the purpose of the demand for the so-called ‘right of return’ is the eradication of Israel.

With listeners still having heard nothing of what had been going on in southern Israel during the hours preceding this programme, Shah then went on to introduce a contributor who has appeared in the past in BBC World Service content.

Shah: “So what does this latest flare-up mean for people who live in Gaza? Najla Shawa is an aid worker and mother of two young children who lives to the west of Gaza City.”

Listeners then heard a one minute and eighteen second monologue:

Shawa: “Things are very worrying. We do hear explosions every now and then. I’m lucky that I’m distant from those areas so far. But we are completely unsure about how this will turn out in the coming hours. Our first concern as the parents, you know, we have two children – almost one and a half years old and four years old, two daughters – and whenever we are… when things are tense we try to avoid being near windows or open the window slightly so that it can absorb the shock. We are so used to it that we don’t immediately run or stay away. We just live our normal lives until something really big happens. Tonight there’s heavier and we are really concerned but this is really our life. Last night we haven’t slept. Nobody is sure that we will take our kids to school or not. It’s crazy to take them to school having all these bombings and airstrikes happening. So all [both] my daughter went to school early morning, I was like what kind of schizophrenic life we have. We’re all night worrying about the intensity of the situation and then everyone goes to work, to their normal life. Because we have experienced this so…like hundreds and hundreds of times like in the past years, this is unfortunately our way of living.”

Shah went on to amplify an inaccurate version of events provided by a terror organisation.

Shah: “Najla Shawa in Gaza City. The latest trigger for violence was Sunday’s undercover Israeli operation in the south of Gaza. Israel’s chief military spokesman said that Israeli Special Forces involved in the incident had not been sent to assassinate Hamas commanders but to conduct an intelligence gathering operation. Hamas said the Israeli undercover team had infiltrated Gaza near Khan Younis in a civilian car to target the commander who was killed.”

Listeners next heard directly from the Hamas horse’s mouth as Shah introduced another monologue from Ghazi Hamad.

Shah: “Its spokesperson Ghazi Hamad told the BBC that although Palestinians were ready to die for their freedom, Israel had gone too far this time.”

Hamad: “I think what happened this time [is] that Israel broken the understandings of the ceasefire and I think they put a big knife in the back of the ceasefire and this is prove that Israel is not interested in the stability and prosperity of Gaza and it try every time to break any agreement or understanding.”

Listeners were not told at this point or anywhere else in the programme that following the incident near Khan Younis on November 11th, Gaza Strip terrorists launched seventeen missile attacks against civilians in Israel.  

Shah went on to quote a Tweet.

Shah: “Well the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladinov, Tweeted a short while ago saying the escalation in the past 24 hours is extremely dangerous and reckless. Rockets must stop, restraint must be shown by all. No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence. Well Avi Issacharoff [wrongly pronounced] is Middle East analyst for the Times of Israel and one of the creators of the Israeli political thriller Fauda. Does he think a further escalation of violence is inevitable?”

Listeners then heard a discussion of the background to events with Avi Issacharoff beginning by stating “I do believe that we are into an escalation already.”

Shah: “But it comes – the timing is [unintelligible] – it comes as Benjamin Netanyahu has been saying very publicly that he wants to avoid war and many people believe that there are long-term efforts to try and maintain a truce, if not establish a better peace.”

Issacharoff pointed out that “Hamas is calling for the elimination of the State of Israel” and went on to mention a story about which BBC audiences have to date heard nothing.

Issacharoff: “Israel not only allowed more gas…into Gaza but also allowed Qatari money that will pass into Hamas’ hands to pay the salaries of Hamas’ people” 

After Issacharoff had mentioned the Khan Younis incident as a factor behind the latest escalation, Shah brought up her own speculations.

Shah: “But what do you conclude from all of that then? Is Israel in a sense trying to curb Hamas before there is some kind of deal? Is this a preemptive action? What would you read into it?”

Having explained that any ‘deal’ does not mean a peace agreement in which the sides “live happily ever after with each other”, Issacharoff explained that such an understanding actually means that “there’s going to be quiet while both sides will continue to prepare themselves for the next war to come.”

Shah appeared rather shocked by the idea of an inevitable war:

Shah: “But you talk about the next war to come.”

With Issacharoff having again explained that “this will happen at the end of the day…” and that any agreement between Israel and Hamas is “a temporary truce”, Shah closed the item.

As we see, throughout this entire seven-minute item and the news bulletin which came before it, BBC Radio 4 audiences heard nothing whatsoever about what was happening to the residents of southern Israel at that very time. A more one-sided portrayal of the story is difficult to imagine.

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Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

About an hour and a half after terrorists in the Gaza Strip had begun a barrage of attacks on civilian targets in Israel on the afternoon of November 12th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel-Gaza violence erupts after covert op killings“.

The report has since been amended numerous times but its headline has not been changed and its opening paragraph remains basically the same:

Version 1: “Violence has flared between Israel and Gaza, a day after seven militants and an Israeli soldier were killed amid an undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.”

Version 13: “Violence has flared between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, a day after seven militants and an Israeli soldier were killed during an undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.”

The “militants” – actually all members of armed terror groups – were not killed “during an undercover Israeli operation” but after that mission had been exposed. Hence the suggestion to audiences that “killings” took place during a “covert op” is inaccurate and misleading.

By the time the first version of this article was published between 80 and 100 rockets and mortars had been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian communities. The BBC described that publicly known information as follows:

“Scores of rockets were launched at Israel…”

In version 13 of the report – published on the morning of November 13th – readers were told that:

“Militants fired 300 rockets and mortars at Israel. One hit a bus, seriously injuring a soldier nearby.”

By the time that version saw light the official figure was 370 missiles. Since the previous evening it had been known that the attack on the bus, which opened the barrage of attacks, was not carried out using a rocket or a mortar: Hamas had already put out a statement announcing that the attack was carried out using a Kornet guided anti-tank missile.

Readers then saw a qualified representation of the Israeli response to the hundreds of attacks:

“Israel responded with more than 70 strikes on what it said were targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” [emphasis added]

The report went on:

“Three Palestinians, two of them reportedly militants, were killed.” [emphasis added]

Twelve hours before this version of the report was published it was already known that:

“At least three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the retaliatory attacks and three others were wounded, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said. The Gaza health ministry identified the dead as Muhammed al-Tatri, 27, Muhammed Oudeh, 22, and Hamad al-Nahal, 23. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group claimed two of the dead as its members.”

Readers had to go right down to the article’s 33rd paragraph to discover that the BBC was in fact aware of that information and so the use of the word “reportedly” was entirely superfluous.

The article went on:

“Meanwhile, Israeli medics said 10 people in Israel were injured.

Israeli media later reported that a man was killed after a house was hit by a rocket in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.”

Hours before this version of the report appeared the Israeli ambulance service had already announced that it had treated 53 injured people and further injuries and one fatality were sustained in a further attack on Ashkelon several hours before the BBC published this article.

The BBC’s report continued with a section titled “What happened on Sunday?” in which readers were once again given an account of the incident near Absan al Kabira, east of Khan Younis, that is mostly sourced from the terror group Hamas.

That was followed by a section titled “Why did Israel kill the commander?” and another titled “What has happened since Sunday’s operation?” in which the BBC refrained from telling readers in its own words of the previous barrage of rocket attacks.

The Israeli military said that immediately after the clashes, 17 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, three of which were shot down.” [emphasis added]

The article went on to inaccurately claim that the November 12th attacks had taken place throughout the day, rather than from 16:30 onward.

Throughout Monday, some 300 rockets and mortars were launched towards Israel, dozens of which were intercepted while many landed in open spaces, according to the Israeli military.” [emphasis added]

Remarkably, BBC audiences saw no reporting on the numerous direct missile hits on homes and businesses in places such as Sderot, Ashkelon and Netivot and no comment from any of the people affected by the unprecedented barrage of attacks. No images of the damage sustained to the homes of Israeli civilians appeared in this report.

The report ended with a section titled “Why are Israel and Hamas enemies?” that was recycled from a previous report and in which BBC audiences once again saw the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltrations which have been taking place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for more than seven months whitewashed as “protests”.

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BBC Radio 4 news bulletins mislead UK audiences on Gaza rocket attacks

h/t CL

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ on August 9th included an item (from 18:09 here) concerning events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip which had begun several hours beforehand.

The BBC’s newsreader refrained from informing listeners who carried out the missile fire mentioned in his chronologically reversed portrayal of the story. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Israel has carried out a dozen airstrikes on targets in Gaza in response to the firing of around 36 missiles into Israel. One Palestinian man was killed. The Israelis said at least three people were wounded inside Israel. Yesterday two fighters from Hamas, which controls Gaza, were killed by Israeli fire. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

By the time that news bulletin went on air (02:00 Israel time), over 70 projectiles had been launched from the Gaza Strip. In other words, Radio 4 news reduced the number of attacks on Israeli civilian targets by half. Notably too, the report presented a Palestinian casualty as fact (without telling listeners that he was a Hamas operative) while presenting Israeli wounded using the “Israel says” caveat. Unnecessary qualification was also evident in Yoland Knell’s report.

Knell: “Israel’s military says that its fighter jets targeted sites across Gaza that were used by Palestinian militants to build tunnels for attacks, to make rockets and for logistics. Earlier, Israeli television broadcast pictures of a house and cars said to have been damaged when two rockets hit the town of Sderot. Several other missiles were intercepted by Israel’s aerial defence system and most landed in open areas. Hamas had warned that Israel would pay for an attack one day ago which killed two of its militants. An Israeli tank fired at a Gaza watchtower after soldiers believed gunshots had been aimed at them. Palestinian and Israeli media later reported that the gunfire had actually been part of a Hamas training exercise. The latest violence follows reports that progress had been made in talks mediated by the UN and Egypt to try to achieve a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Notably, while she did use Hamas’ own terminology to describe its threats of retaliation, Yolande Knell did not clarify to BBC audiences that the terror group was attacking exclusively civilian targets.

Eight hours later, Radio 4 listeners were again given an inaccurate picture of the number of missile attacks against Israeli civilians in the station’s 8 a.m. news bulletin (from 02:06:11 here) read by Chris Aldridge during the August 9th edition of the ‘Today’ programme.  

Aldridge: “The Palestinian authorities say three people, including an 18 month-old girl, have been killed in a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip by Israeli warplanes. The Israeli army said it was targeting what it called ‘terror sites’ in the Palestinian territory in response to three dozen rockets fired into Israel.”

Four hours before Aldridge read that news bulletin the number of missile attacks launched against Israeli civilians since the previous evening was already over 150. In other words, the BBC concealed over 75% of the attacks that actually took place – and 100% of the Israeli civilians injured by them – from audience view. As we see, the ministry of health run by the terror group launching those missiles was inaccurately portrayed as “the Palestinian authorities”: terminology which listeners used to hearing about ‘the Palestinian Authority’ no doubt found very confusing.

Remarkably, although that news bulletin was aired after the BBC News website had amended a problematic context-free headline, Radio 4 also chose to present the story to its audiences in reverse chronology.

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An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

From 4 p.m. GMT on the afternoon of July 14th BBC World Service news bulletins led with reports on the day’s events in the Gaza Strip and – to a lesser extent – southern Israel.

A number of recurring themes can be seen in the reports heard by BBC World Service listeners over a period of nearly eight hours:

1) Leading with and focusing on events in Gaza, with concurrent events in Israel mentioned later.

2) Quoting “Palestinian health officials” while failing to clarify that they are actually members of the same terror group organising the months of violent rioting along the border and launching missile attacks.

3) Using the euphemism “militant” in place of the term terrorist.

4) Quantifying the number of Israeli strikes on Hamas targets – e.g. “dozens” – while failing to quantify the terror groups’ rocket and mortar attacks.

5) Qualifying descriptions of Palestinian attacks as terrorism.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military says it has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip as shells and rockets were fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Palestinian health officials say that two people have been killed and 12 more wounded by an airstrike in Gaza City. Israel says it’s destroyed a battalion headquarters belonging to Hamas.”

In the next bulletin (and a later one) listeners were told that the Israeli strikes were “against Gaza” rather than against a terror group’s military infrastructure alone. 

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza hitting dozens of militant targets, among them a Hamas battalion headquarters. The operation followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis have reported three people injured on their side of the border.”

While a Hamas training facility was mentioned in several bulletins, the BBC presented its purpose as an Israeli claim, failing to inform audiences in its own words of the function of the building despite the information being available in a video produced by Hamas itself. The categorisation of IED attacks and a grenade attack as terrorism was repeatedly unnecessarily qualified.

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Israel says it destroyed a training facility belonging to the militant group Hamas in one of its most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Here’s more from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza since the last war, hitting dozens of militant targets – among them a Hamas training facility. The series of airstrikes followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis say three people were injured on their side of the border.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 18:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. It’s one of the most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

While the two people killed in Gaza were described as “teenagers”, the fact that two of the Israelis wounded were also in that age-group was not communicated to listeners. After those two mentions of the fact that the injuries came as a result of a rocket attack on the family’s house, that information was excluded from subsequent bulletins.

BBC World Service news bulletin 19:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Israel has carried out its biggest air attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. At the same time, mortars and rockets have been fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Palestinian health officials say two teenagers have been killed and at least 15 more people wounded. The Israeli ambulance service says that three Israelis have been injured by shrapnel. Our Middle East regional editor Sebastian Usher has this assessment.”

Usher: “This is a serious escalation and there are attempts being made – Egypt, the UN – to try to talk both sides away from a direct confrontation. Remember, in the last decade there’ve been three wars in Gaza. Both sides are saying at the moment that’s not what they want but this is beginning to get dangerously out of control if it continues at this pace and if the casualties begin to mount.”

Notably Usher did not clarify that those “three wars” also took place in Israel.

BBC World Service news bulletin 20:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Israeli air force has carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. The Israeli prime minister said the raids were a response to terrorist actions by Hamas, from whose territory rockets and mortars had been fired into Israel. More details from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what they called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014.

Voiceover: In consultation with the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff and the top security command of the State of Israel, we have decided a strong action against Hamas terrorism. The IDF have struck Hamas with the hardest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will increase the strength of our attacks as necessary.

He said the raids were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas from whose territory rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement comes after the Israeli prime minister said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since 2014. Benjamin Netanyahu said it was in response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas. Two Palestinians were reportedly killed and three Israelis were injured.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. More from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “A spokesman for the Palestinian militant group Hamas says a truce has been agreed with Israeli forces after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However, Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli prime minister said the attacks against militant targets in the Gaza Strip were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

The first time listeners heard quantification of the missile attacks was seven hours after the story became the lead item.

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement from a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. From Jerusalem, here’s Tom Bateman.”

Bateman: “An Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City sent plumes of dust and smoke into the afternoon sky. Palestinian health officials said two teenagers were killed, describing them as passers-by when the building was hit. In what amounted to a significant military flare-up, Israel said it targeted 40 sites used by the militant group Hamas while nearly 200 mortars and rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza. Three Israelis were wounded from shrapnel in the town of Sderot. Late in the evening Hamas said it had agreed a ceasefire. Israel said only the facts on the ground would dictate its actions.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it agreed a truce with Israel after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli premier said the attacks against militant targets were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

By midnight GMT the story was no longer the first item in the bulletin. Remarkably, only then did listeners hear of the events which sparked the flare-up, although Bateman failed to clarify that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

BBC World Service news bulletin 24:00 14/7/18 – from 00:57

Stewart Macintosh: “The latest reports from Gaza suggest Palestinian militants and Israeli forces are continuing to exchange fire despite an earlier announcement by Hamas that the two sides had reached a truce. Israel’s military said on Saturday it had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014 as Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The latest round of hostilities took place amid the simmering tensions at Gaza’s perimeter fence. On Friday Israeli soldiers shot dead a 15 year-old boy, bringing to more than 130 the number of Palestinians killed during regular protests. An Israeli soldier was wounded by a grenade thrown from the fence which appeared in part to trigger the latest airstrikes alongside growing pressure on Mr Netanyahu to respond to daily arson attacks from the Strip involving burning objects attached to kites and helium filled condoms.”

As we see the majority of those BBC World Service news bulletins began by describing Israeli actions, with considerable focus on the theme of the “biggest attack” since 2014. Listeners were not told whether or not the rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip was also the ‘biggest’ since that date. 

It is of course difficult to imagine that the BBC would describe groups responsible for firing 200 projectiles in 24 hours into British territory as “militants”: as we have seen in the past the BBC does use the word ‘terror’ to describe attacks on British and European soil. Nevertheless, the double standard employed by the BBC in language when reporting terrorism continues. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

Some nineteen hours after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had begun launching a barrage of mortars and rockets at Israeli civilians living in nearby communities in the early hours of July 14th, visitors to the BBC News website were informed that: “Israel deals hardest blow to Hamas”.

Version 6

That report – headlined “Israel deals ‘hardest blow’ to Hamas since 2014 Gaza war” – appeared on the website’s main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages and it was amended several times throughout the night with the later version opening:

“Israel has carried out its biggest attack against Hamas militant targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.

The raids were a response to rockets fired into Israel, he said. Hamas said a truce had been agreed, but there have been reports of further exchanges.”

BBC audiences were not informed that events spiraled following violent incidents on July 13th during what the report later describes as “mass demonstrations along the border”. The report’s only reference to those incidents is as follows:

“Hamas said another Palestinian had died after being shot by Israeli troops during border protests on Friday.”

The BBC’s report fails to clarify that the youth concerned had been trying to climb the border fence at the time, that another infiltration attempt had taken place or that an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack.

Following that violence, a number of Hamas military installations were targeted by Israeli forces, including two attack tunnels which were not mentioned at all in the BBC’s report. At around 01:30 on July 14th terror factions in the Gaza Strip began launching mortars and rockets at Israeli communities and by 6 a.m. at least 31 attacks had been recorded.

The missile attacks continued later in the day, as did the retaliatory strikes on Hamas military installations which were described in the BBC’s report as follows:

“Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and 12 injured in an air strike in Gaza City on Saturday. […]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had struck facilities used by Hamas, which dominates Gaza, including a battalion headquarters in Beit Lahia, a training camp located in a high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, weapons storage facilities and rocket launchers. […]

Witnesses told Reuters news agency an Israeli strike had hit an empty building in Gaza City and that the casualties were passers-by.”

BBC audiences were not told that the “high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp” – intended to be a library – was used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility and that a tunnel dug under the building connects to Hamas’ tunnel network.

By 16:30 over a hundred missile attacks had taken place. A children’s playground and several buildings were damaged including a synagogue and a house in Sderot where four members of the family were injured by shrapnel. By late evening the number of missile attacks had risen to over 174 and attacks continued during the night.

The BBC’s report devotes the grand total of 44 words to that side of the story. Although the article was amended five times in the eleven hours following its publication, no effort was made to update the number of missiles fired.

“Three Israelis were hurt by one of more than 90 rockets fired on Israel. […]

The IDF said dozens of rockets had been fired on Israel from within Gaza.

One rocket hit a home in the town of Sderot. Three people suffered shrapnel wounds.”

Only in the ninth version of the report – which appeared around midday local time the next day and some sixteen hours after its initial publication – was an amendment added to reflect the actual number of missiles fired.

“More than 200 projectiles – including rockets and mortars – had been fired into Israel since Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.”

As has been BBC practice since the end of March, readers were provided with casualty figures sourced from Hamas but were not told of that fact or of the terror group’s involvement in organising, facilitating and financing the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltration attempts that have taken place during the ‘Great Return March’. As usual readers were also not informed that over 80% of those killed have been linked to various Gaza Strip based terror factions.

“The attacks come amid an escalation of violence in the region in recent months.

They coincided with mass demonstrations along the border which saw thousands of Palestinians express their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel – as well as demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians were killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist but last year said it was ready to accept an interim Palestinian state limited to Gaza and the West Bank.”

As we see, just as the BBC’s one-sided headline focused audience attentions on Israeli actions, so did the report itself. Remarkably, the BBC News website could not even be bothered to update readers of the first eight versions of the report regarding the correct number of attacks launched against the thousands of Israeli civilians who were forced to spend their weekend in safe rooms and air-raid shelters and the events which triggered the escalation were concealed from audience view.

Related Articles:

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

How did BBC News report the latest Gaza missile attacks?

Fifth Gaza rocket attack this month not newsworthy for the BBC

 

 

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

On the evening of Saturday June 2nd two missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip.

“…on Saturday night, the army’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket fired at southern Israel by a terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, the military said.

A second rocket was also launched around the same time, but appeared to fall on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The rocket launches appeared to be the first violation of a fragile ceasefire in effect since Wednesday morning, but came after a weekend of intense violence along the Gaza border.

The two rocket launches triggered sirens in Israel’s Eshkol region, near the south of the Strip, shortly before the end of Shabbat.” 

Israel responded with strikes on military facilities belonging to Hamas.

Reporting on those two rocket launches was added to an article titled “Gaza violence: Thousands attend funeral for Palestinian medic” which was published on the BBC News website’s main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on the evening (local time) of June 2nd.

“Later on Saturday rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel reportedly responded with air strikes. […]

Hours after the funeral two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, the IDF said, triggering air raid sirens in Israeli villages near the border.

One rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system and the other apparently landed inside Gaza, a statement said.”

However, four more projectiles were subsequently fired during the night.

“In the staggered attacks overnight Saturday-Sunday, the first projectile was launched shortly after 12:30 a.m., setting off sirens in the southern town of Sderot and surrounding Sha’ar Hanegev region.

 The second projectile was fired at Israel less than an hour later, triggering alarms in the Eshkol region, the army said.

At 2:45 a.m., sirens again sounded in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regions in southern Israel as another projectile targeted southern Israel.

All three were shot down by the Iron Dome, the army said. It was not immediately clear if the projectiles were rockets or mortar shells.

At 3:20 a.m., sirens again went off in the Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regions, with the army confirming another “launch from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory,” and identifying the projectile as a rocket.”

More strikes on Hamas facilities were carried out in response.

The BBC’s report was not updated to include those overnight attacks and no additional reporting appeared.

Also absent from the BBC’s report was any mention of additional incidents which took place during the rioting along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on June 1st.

“The army said that an IDF vehicle came under fire during the riots and that a Palestinian who breached the border fence in northern Gaza planted a grenade that exploded. […]

The Palestinian rioters also sent fire kites over the fence on Friday, causing three large blazes in nearby Israeli fields.”

Arson attacks using incendiary kites continued on June 2nd, causing harm to wildlife and destroying part of a nature reserve and hundreds of acres of agricultural land but no mention of that appeared in the BBC’s report.

Since the ‘Great Return March’ events commenced at the end of March, over 270 fires have been started by Palestinians using incendiary kites, reportedly destroying some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres), or more than a third of all the land adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, BBC audiences have seen no coverage of those arson attacks whatsoever.

Related Articles:

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

 

 

 

 

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

As regular readers know, the BBC’s English language services did not report any of the fourteen separate incidents of missile attacks by terrorist groups located either in the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula that took place between January and November 2017. Multiple mortar attacks on an IDF position that were launched from the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on November 30th were mentioned in a BBC report on another topic.

On December 7th three missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip.

“Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip fell inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and did not reach Israeli territory, but set off rocket sirens in the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar HaNegev regional councils, as well as the city of Sdreot. 

A Jihadist Salafi group in Gaza called the Al-Tawheed Brigades […] claimed responsibility for the first two launches. […]

A third rocket, of unconfirmed origins, was fired toward Israel and landed in Israeli territory in an open area, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed. Since the rocket did not approach an urban center it did not set off rocket sirens in the Negev communities near the Gaza Strip.”

Israel later responded to those attacks – which were not reported by the BBC.

On the evening of December 8th three more attacks took place. One projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, one – initially thought to have fallen short – was later located in the Sdot Negev district and one hit the town of Sderot.

“”There was an immense explosion. I heard glass shattering and then car alarms. The walls of my house shook. I didn’t dare leave the shelter. Now the entire street’s closed off and police and bomb squad technicians are everywhere. Ambulances are parked in front of my house and paramedics are looking for anyone who might have been hurt,” said a local Sderot woman.”

The following day an additional rocket was discovered in the yard of a kindergarten in Sderot which was fortunately empty at the time. 

Israel responded to those attacks with strikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip in which two members of Hamas’ Izz a din al Qassam brigades were killed.

On the morning of December 9th the BBC News website ran an article titled “Israel strikes Gaza Hamas sites after rocket attacks” on its main home page, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East page’. The article once again opened with inaccurate paraphrasing of statements from Israeli officials. [emphasis added]

“Israel says it has targeted sites in Gaza belonging to militant group Hamas in retaliation for rocket strikes.

Israel’s military said it hit weapons sites early on Saturday. Two people were killed, a Gaza hospital said, bringing the deaths in Israeli strikes and gunfire over the past day to four.

Three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza late on Friday.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have risen since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The report did not clarify that the two people killed were Hamas operatives and readers saw no reporting from the town of Sderot other than the statement “[n]o casualties were reported” that appeared later in the article.

The rest of the report related to additional incidents of Palestinian violence and demonstrations further afield, with now standard BBC messaging on “settlements” in Jerusalem and “international law” promoted towards its end. Readers also found a recycled euphemistic statement according to which:

“The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014”

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website also found a report on the Israeli response to Friday’s missile attacks.

Given that the BBC’s English language services elected to completely ignore numerous separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip earlier in the year, the question that inevitably arises is why the attacks on December 8th were treated differently.

It is of course difficult to avoid the conclusion that the novel display of BBC interest in this particular round of attacks from Gaza is linked to the fact that it can be framed as being connected to – or indeed ‘fallout’ from – the US president’s announcement concerning Jerusalem. The fact that the BBC refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of all previous attacks this year obviously reinforces that erroneous narrative. 

(The table relates only to missiles that landed in Israeli territory and does not include shortfalls, interceptions or failed attacks)

 

 

Gaza missile attack on Israeli town again ignored by BBC News

On the morning of October 5th sirens sounded in Sderot and the surrounding area as a missile was launched from the Gaza Strip. Narrowly missing a school and homes, the missile landed in a residential area of Sderot, causing damage but fortunately no physical injuries. Israel later responded with strikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip. A Salafist group based in the Gaza Strip claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The Islamic State-affiliated Ahfad al-Sahaba-Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis terrorist group took responsibility for the rocket launch in statements released in both Arabic and Hebrew.

“Oh you cowardly Jews: You don’t have safety in our land. [Former defense minister Moshe] Ya’alon, the failure at giving security. [Defense Minister Avigdor] Liberman to fail will be a certainty,” the salafist group said in its statement, in poorly translated Hebrew.

The attack against Israel was apparently a response to the Strip’s Hamas rulers arresting several members of the Salafist organization, according to the group’s statement.”bbc-arabic-5-10-1

Once again, this missile attack on Israeli civilians received no coverage whatsoever on the BBC’s English language website. Visitors to the BBC Arabic website, on the other hand, found the incident – and primarily the Israeli response – covered in two separate reports on other topics: here and here.

The pattern of reporting whereby missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is reported in Arabic has been predominant since the end of the summer 2014 conflict. Since the beginning of 2016, just one missile attack has been – belatedly – reported by the BBC in the English language.

January 1stBBC News ignores Gaza missile attacks, BBC Arabic reports Israeli response

January 24thBBC News ignores Gaza missile attack again – in English

March 11thBBC News continues to ignore missile attacks on Israelis – in English

March 15thmissile attack not reported.bbc-arabic-5-10-2

May 6thPatchy and selective BBC News reporting of Gaza border incidents

May 25thBBC News fails to report another Gaza missile attack to English-speakers

July 1stAnother Gaza missile attack ignored by the BBC

August 21st: Response reported in Arabic, attack and response reported a day later in English.

September 14th: BBC ignores – in English – another projectile launched from Gaza

October 5th: Response reported in Arabic.

The BBC’s public purposes remit commits it to “giving insight into the way people live in other countries” and building “understanding of international issues”. The continuing appearance of this pattern of reporting obviously means that English-speaking audiences – including the corporation’s funding public – are still not receiving the information which would enable their understanding of how civilians in Sderot and other communities in the Western Negev live or enhance their comprehension of the issue of terrorism in the Gaza Strip. 

First BBC English language report on a Gaza missile attack in eight months

Well over 24 hours after the incident took place, a day after colleagues at BBC Arabic published two articles on the story and following the appearance of this post, the BBC News website finally informed its English-speaking audiences that a missile had been fired by “Palestinian militants” in the Gaza Strip at an Israeli town.

Titled “Israel launches Gaza strikes after rocket attack on Sderot“, in its fourth paragraph the report from August 22nd tells readers that:Sderot attack art

“Earlier, a rocket launched in Gaza landed near a house in the Israeli town of Sderot without causing any injuries.”

It continues:

“Israel and militants in Gaza led by Hamas, which dominates the coastal territory, fought a 50-day war in the summer of 2014.

Since then, a ceasefire has largely held, but some small jihadist groups have defied the agreement and periodically fired rockets at Israel.”

Does that portrayal provide BBC audiences with an understanding of the rate of missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the end of the 2014 conflict? The facts behind the BBC’s claim that the ceasefire which came into force in August 2014 “has largely held” are as follows (an attack represents one incident rather than the number of missiles fired. Short falling missiles which were fired towards Israel but landed inside the Gaza Strip are not included):

2014: September: one mortar attack. October: one mortar attack. December: one missile attack.

2015: April: one missile attack. May: one missile attack. June: three separate missile attacks. July: one missile attack. August: three separate missile attacks. September: four separate missile attacks. October: five separate missile attacks. November: two separate missile attacks and one mortar attack. December: one missile attack.

2016: January: two separate missile attacks. March: two separate missile attacks. May: two separate missile attacks and twelve mortar attacks. July: one missile attack. August: one missile attack.

In the 24 months since the ceasefire came into effect, fifteen mortar attacks and thirty missile attacks have taken place. In addition, shooting attacks, IED attacks and one incident of anti-tank missile fire have also occurred. According to the BBC, that is a ceasefire which has “largely held” and the attacks can be described as ‘periodic’.  

The 2014 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas reportedly stated that “all Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel by land, air or sea, and will stop the construction of tunnels from Gaza into Israel”. Not only has Hamas obviously flouted that latter term, but it has also neglected its obligation as party to the agreement to prevent attacks by other factions. That point, however, is not adequately clarified to readers of this article. Instead, the BBC chose to amplify the terror group’s messaging.

“Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “We hold [Israel] responsible for the escalation in the Gaza Strip and we stress that its aggression will not succeed in breaking the will of our people and dictate terms to the resistance.”

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar later blamed “a group not committed to the principles of the resistance of the occupation” for firing the rocket at Sderot.”

As regular readers are aware, the majority of the missile fire directed at Israeli civilian communities since the end of the 2014 conflict has been ignored by the BBC. This article is the first English language report on missile fire since the beginning of 2016, despite the fact that seven previous attacks have taken place in that time. BBC audiences have certainly not been provided with any reporting in the last two years on how the people who live near the border with the Gaza Strip cope with the continuing attacks, despite the fact that the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau is less than an hour and a half’s drive from Sderot.

The corporation’s public purposes remit commits it to “giving insight into the way people live in other countries” and building “understanding of international issues”. The BBC apparently believes that on this particular issue it can meet those obligations by producing one belated report in eight months which includes a generalised portrayal of ‘periodic’ missile fire rather than providing audiences with the readily available concrete statistical information.