Some three hours after an incident took place in the southern Gaza Strip on the evening of November 11th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage, ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the headline “Israelis ‘kill Hamas commander’ in Gaza exchange of fire”. Several versions later, the report was re-titled “Israelis kill Hamas commander in undercover Gaza raid”.
By the time that second headline was written, the IDF had clarified that the mission was not a “raid” but an intelligence-gathering operation.
Readers of the report’s earlier versions were told that:
“Seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, have been killed during an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say.”
“Hamas officials and medics said seven Palestinians were killed, four of them militants.”
In fact – as had been reported by the Times of Israel and others by the time that version of the report was published – more than four of the dead were Hamas operatives.
“According to Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades commander Nour Baraka was killed along with six other Hamas members by Israeli special forces who drove a “civilian vehicle” three kilometers into Gaza from the border.”
The BBC’s Arabic language report on the same subject also clarified that point:
“Hamas said 7 of its members were killed and 7 wounded in the Israeli shelling.”
The later versions of the BBC News website report revised that statement:
“Six of the Palestinians killed belonged to Hamas – the militant Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip – and the seventh was a member of the militant Popular Resistance Committees, AFP news agency cited Palestinian officials as saying.”
AFP actually described its information as coming from “Gazan security sources” – in other words, Hamas.
The BBC News website report’s earlier versions stated:
“Sirens later sounded in communities across southern Israel and rockets were fired from Gaza, without causing harm.
The Israeli military later said 17 rockets had been fired and three were shot down. It was not clear if the rockets had caused any damage.” [emphasis added]
That first sentence remained in later versions of the report.
In fact sirens were not sounded “across southern Israel” but in areas close to the Israel-Gaza Strip border. By the time the earlier version of the report was published it was known that:
“Following the clashes, at least 17 projectiles were fired at southern Israel as of 05:05 a.m Monday, three of which were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system, the army said with no immediate reports of casualties.
Light damage was caused to a number of greenhouses in the Eshkol region, locals said.”
Readers were not informed in any versions of the BBC’s report that flight paths to Ben Gurion airport had to be changed due to the rocket fire or that schools, colleges and train stations in the affected area had to be closed.
The BBC’s earlier account of what happened during the incident was attributed mainly to Hamas:
“Seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, have been killed during an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say.
An Israeli soldier was also killed and another wounded, the Israeli military said, in an ensuing firefight. […]
A spokesman for Hamas, the militant Islamist group that dominates Gaza, described the incident as a “cowardly Israeli attack”.
Hamas officials and medics said seven Palestinians were killed, four of them militants. The senior Hamas member killed was named as Sheikh Nur Barakeh, a commander of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades, the group’s military wing, in Khan Younis, in the south of the territory.
Hamas said Israeli special forces fired from a car around 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip.
An exchange of fire then broke out, with witnesses reporting tank shelling and explosions from Israeli air strikes in the area.”
That account obviously gives BBC audiences the mistaken impression that the “seven Palestinians” were killed before “an ensuing firefight” rather than during the exchange of fire. Readers were not told that the Hamas commander Barakeh was reported to be involved with Hamas’ tunnel programme.
Later versions of the report (9 and 10) included a sub-section titled “What happened?” which quoted “Palestinian sources” and “Palestinian officials” without clarifying that the source was again Hamas.
The final part of all versions of the BBC’s report continued the corporation’s deliberately euphemistic editorial policy of portraying the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltrations along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as “protests”.
“More than 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since the end of March – most during weekly protests along the border at which thousands have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”
Notably, BBC audiences have not been informed to date of the relevant and related issue of last week’s transfer of $15 million in cash from Qatar to Hamas.