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

On the morning of August 3rd official BBC Twitter accounts sent these Tweets among others:

Tweet breaking UN school

Tweet w news UN school

Neither Tweet directly states that Israel was responsible, but of course anyone with experience of the terminology used by the BBC in its reporting from Gaza during the past four weeks (and in general) would know that only Israel “strikes”, “pounds” and “bombards” according to the BBC lexicon.

The BBC News website’s Middle East page headline ran with the headline “Deadly strike ‘at UN school in Gaza'”, with the sub-heading stating more cautiously:

“At least 10 Palestinians are killed and dozens wounded in a strike near another UN school in Gaza, medics in the town of Rafah say.” [emphasis added]

HP UN school 3 8

The article to which that link leads is titled “Gaza crisis: Deadly strike ‘at UN school in Rafah’” and it opens:

“At least 10 people have been killed in a strike near a UN-run school housing Palestinians displaced by the Gaza conflict, medics say.

The attack hit the entrance of the facility in Rafah, where thousands of Palestinians are said to be sheltering.

The Israeli military has not commented but has been carrying out renewed strikes in Gaza.

Gaza health officials say 30 people have died on Sunday, while militants continue to fire rockets into Israel.”

Later on readers are told:

“In the latest attack, eyewitnesses said a missile struck as people queued for food.

At least 30 people were also hurt, Palestinian officials said. Images showed injured children being carried away.

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.” “

Apparently Mr Turner (and the BBC) has yet to watch the recent interview with former UNRWA official John Ging – now the director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations.

Clearly Turner has also yet to see the latest example of mapping of mortar fire from the vicinity of a UN school in the Zeitoun district of Gaza City on August 2nd.

Mortar fire school Zeitoun 2 8

A filmed report by Martin Patience is embedded at the top of that written article. The same report also appeared as a stand-alone item on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza crisis: Chaos after deadly strike ‘at UN school’“. In his report – which was also broadcast to millions of viewers of BBC television news – Patience says: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. Ah…the Israeli military has yet to comment on this latest incident but what we do know is that there’s been very intense fighting in Rafah since Friday morning. That was after it was believed that Hamas militants captured an Israeli soldier. Israel is now saying that it believes that soldier is dead but since the violence began there, dozens of Palestinian officials – according to Palestinian health officials – have been killed in the fighting.”

In other words, BBC television audiences and visitors to the website are being told in no uncertain terms by Patience that not only was this incident an intentional Israeli attack “on” a UN school, but also that Israel UN schools have been the target of Israeli attacks twice before. 

Now let’s take a quick look at how some other journalists reported the same incident. Here’s CNN:

“Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, tweeted that the school was sheltering almost 3,000 internally displaced people.

“I can confirm a shelling incident has caused multiple deaths and injuries in the vicinity of a school,” Gunness told CNN’s New Day on Sunday morning. “I am not saying it was a direct hit, and we are not confirming who it’s by yet. We hope to have more details later.” ” [emphasis added]

Here’s NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel on Twitter: (h/t)

Engel tweet 1

Engel tweet 2

Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Nick Casey:

Tweet Casey Rafah

The incident is currently under IDF investigation but already the various BBC claims of an attack “on” or “at” a UN school in Rafah – rather than in the vicinity of that building – are clearly less than accurate and Martin Patience has obviously breached BBC guidelines with his knee-jerk claim of a “third deadly attack on a United Nations school” by Israel. Unless he can prove that this school itself (along with the other two he mentions) was the intended target of an attack – rather than terrorists operating in the area near those UN schools – the BBC should issue a prompt and prominent correction.   

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