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