Context-free reporting of Hamas arrests from the BBC

An article appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on February 4th informed readers that “Israeli forces arrest Hamas members in the West Bank“. 

Hamas arrests 4 2

The short article has four paragraphs relating to the incident itself and a further five paragraphs of obvious padding, intended to increase its word count. No relevant background or context to the story itself is provided. 

Thus, BBC audiences are not informed of the fact that the number of terror incidents originating in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas and in Area C has increased significantly over the past few months. Likewise, due to the fact that the BBC has systematically neglected to report those events, readers will not be aware that several terror cells from various Palestinian factions have recently been exposed and arrested and that these latest arrests are obviously a continuation of attempts to reduce the level of violence. 

The BBC article states:

“Israeli forces in the West Bank have arrested at least 20 members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Those arrested, in overnight raids all over the West Bank, included three members of the Palestinian parliament.”

According to sources including the Jerusalem Post :

“Among those arrested […] are three Hamas legislators: Ahmed Attoun, Mohamed al-Tal and Hatem Kafisheh.

The IDF also arrested top Hamas figures Adnan Asfour, Baker Bilal and Omar al-Jabarini.”


“Ahmad Attoun was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. He was exiled to the West Bank from Israel two years ago after being detained in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. He had been living in the headquarters if the Red Cross there for over a year in order to avoid arrest due to his refusal to renounce his with Hamas.

Attoun’s brother Jihad was arrested in February 2011 for his role in a Jerusalem terror cell that planted a pipe bomb, and his other brother, Mahmoud, is currently serving a life sentence for killing three Israelis, including policeman Nissim Toledano, according to the NGO Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.”

The BBC article continues:

“Israel regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation, but has not said why the arrests were carried out.”

As pointed out here on several occasions, Israel is not the only country to categorise Hamas as a terrorist organization: so do Canada, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, with its ‘military wing’ also proscribed by Australia. The BBC’s repeated portrayal of Hamas as an organization which only Israel regards as a terror group is misleading and inaccurate. 

With regard to the reasons behind the arrests, information was in fact available, should the BBC have chosen to use it:

“Sources in the IDF and the Shin Bet said that Hamas has been attempting to rebuild its infrastructure in the West Bank, which is Fatah-dominated, as means of leveraging the advantages the terror group alleges to have gained over Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense.”


 “…a senior defense source said the arrests were part of a wider effort to prevent Hamas from assembling an infrastructure in the West Bank.”


“Several of those arrested have been held by Israel in the past, and one was currently wanted for a series of shooting attacks along West Bank roads.”

The article goes on:

“Palestinian human rights groups condemned the arrests, saying they aimed to undermine the reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions.”

Whilst the BBC fails to name those ‘human rights groups’, we learn from Ha’aretz that one of  the main promoters of the bizarre notion that the arrests had anything to do with Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is an organization named the Ahrar Centre for Human Rights, the director of which – Fuad al Khuffash – appears to have Hamas affiliations of his own, according to both PA and Hamas linked sources. 

“The Ramallah-based Ahrar Centre for Human Rights said those arrested and legislators also included Hatem Qfeishe and Muhammad al-Tul from Hebron. […]

Hamas and the rights centre said the Israeli arrest campaign intends to undermine Palestinian reconciliation efforts between the radical Islamist movement ruling Gaza and its main rival, President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party.”

The overall message conveyed by this brief and distinctly context-free article is reflected in the caption to the picture used to illustrate it:

“Israel launches regular operations in Palestinian run areas of the West Bank”

Thus, yet again, Israel is presented as the active side whilst the actions of Palestinian terror groups are omitted entirely from the picture. As has been pointed out here numerous times in the past, the BBC practice of habitually failing to report security incidents originating in Palestinian Authority or Hamas-controlled areas – until there is some sort of Israeli reaction to those incidents – not only causes BBC audiences to view Israeli actions out of context, and so hinders its audiences’ understanding, but also compromises the corporation’s reputation for accuracy and impartiality. 

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