BBC Yom Kippur war accuracy failure perpetuated over years

h/t Judge Dan (via Twitter)

An article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly titled “Legacy of 1973 Arab-Israeli war reverberates 40 years on” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th 2013 includes a side-box according to which:

 “Egypt and Syria lose estimated 8,500 soldiers; Israel loses 6,000 troops”

side box connolly article

That same claim is also to be found in previous BBC articles on the subject of the Yom Kippur war – for example here in the backgrounder titled ‘A History of Conflict’ which is undated, but appears to come from around 2005.

HoC 1973

It also appears in another side-box of ‘context’ appended to an ‘On This Day’ feature – also undated, but apparently from around 2005 at the latest. 

OTD casualties YK

But in fact, that number does not accurately represent the number of Israeli casualties in the Yom Kippur War.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Defence archives – quoting the preface to the report of the Agranat Commission in 1974 – 2,222 Israeli soldiers were killed, 7,251 injured, 301 taken prisoner and 16 declared missing in action during the Yom Kippur War. The Knesset website cites 2,350 Israeli casualties, 15,000 Egyptian ones and 3,500 Syrian dead. Other sources quote figures of between “more than 2,500“, 2,569, 2,688 and 2691 Israeli casualties, with the differences probably being attributable to later deaths as a result of injuries sustained, MIAs whose status was later confirmed and prisoners of war who did not return alive. With regard to Egyptian and Syrian casualties, reliable information is sparse and so the estimates vary.

Despite the differing estimates of Israeli casualties, none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in this BBC article and others. Interestingly, casualties recorded during the 1948 War of Independence do stand at over 6,000 Israelis (soldiers and civilians), so perhaps we can conclude that the BBC has mixed up its Middle East wars.  

This example of failure to meet the expectations of accuracy as stipulated in the BBC editorial guidelines raises an additional interesting point beyond the error itself. The fact that the same inaccuracy has been repeated in article after article over a period of several years suggests that the BBC lazily relies on its own sources – and hence perpetuates its own mistakes – rather than engaging in proper fact checking. 

Related articles:

BBC backgrounder on Yom Kippur war misleads on Syria

BBC removes claim of ‘pre-emptive’ Yom Kippur strike

BBC’s educational resource website describes Yom Kippur attack by Syria and Egypt as ‘pre-emptive’

BBC accuracy and equivalence in 1973


The side box in Kevin Connolly’s report of October 5th was revised a few hours after the publication of this article and now reads as follows:

revised version YK


The two backgrounders still cite the inaccurate number at the time of writing. 


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