On Dec 8th the Guardian published its entries for their Photographer of the year for 2014, a list which included the following truly heartbreaking photo by Mahmud Hams:
However, despite the caption’s claim, it’s far from certain that 15 Palestinian civilians (including the girl pictured in the AFP photo) were in fact killed – at a UN school in the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun – by an Israeli tank shell on the day in question.
Shortly after the incident in Beit Hanoun, we posted about the UK media’s rush to judgment in reporting on the Palestinian casualties and noted that the Guardian, among others, immediately blamed Israel despite the contradicting evidence reported by other news agencies.
We also explained that an Israeli army inquiry into the fighting that day found that IDF mortars likely did not play a role in the killing of Palestinians in the school courtyard. The army admitted that an errant IDF tank shell (fired in response to Hamas shells fired from near the school) did land in the school’s yard, but at a time when there were evidently no people in the area – as this IDF video of the incident seems to show.
More questions were raised by IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, who told reporters that it was quite “out of the ordinary” that Palestinian health officials in Gaza did not share the nature of the wounds of the casualties with Israeli authorities – information which may have shed light on the cause of death.
Indeed, following communication from CAMERA, Associated Press (AP) editors corrected a series of captions accompanying July 24 photographs which had unequivocally blamed Israel for casualties at the UN school.
The revised AP captions included the following additional text:
“Israel acknowledged that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza last week, but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone. It also stated that shell was not fired at the school intentionally.
As Israel and the UN are both currently still investigating the circumstances surrounding the Palestinian casualties from that day, it’s dishonest to impute Israeli culpability while failing to tell readers that the facts are clearly in dispute.