BBC News website reporting on Silwad incident

Previously we looked at a BBC Radio 4 news report in which it was incorrectly claimed that “the Israeli authorities” had not commented on an incident that took place on January 15th near Silwad:


On January 22nd Israel’s public broadcaster Kan 11 reported the findings of an initial IDF probe into that incident. The Times of Israel reported:

“The IDF’s Military Police Unit has launched an investigation after an initial probe determined that a 45-year-old Palestinian man was unnecessarily shot dead in front of his son during an altercation with Israeli troops outside of his central West Bank village last week.

The incident took place last Tuesday when troops set up a makeshift checkpoint outside Silwad to inspect the vehicles entering and exiting the village, according to the initial probe conducted by the brigade commander whose findings were leaked to the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday.

A large traffic jam subsequently formed, angering many of the drivers who began honking their horns in frustration. One of the soldiers at the scene decided to hurl a stun grenade in response.

An irate Ahmad Kahla then sought to get out of his vehicle but the commander of the squad on site blocked him from doing so and pepper sprayed the Palestinian, using mace he did not receive from the army. At this point, the soldiers decided to pull Kahla from his car.

A tussle ensued, as he resisted and also pulled at the gun of the soldier who sought to drag him out of the vehicle. One of the soldiers decided to then discharge his weapon, shooting Kahla in the upper body as his 19-year-old son looked on from in the car, Kan said the initial probe found. The father of four was pronounced dead at the scene shortly thereafter.”

On the evening of January 23rd the BBC News website published a report by Yolande Knell headlined ‘Israel probes death of Palestinian who was pepper-sprayed and shot’ on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Seven of that report’s twenty paragraphs are given over to an account of the incident (which had not previously been reported on the BBC News website) from Kahla’s son. Knell states:

“The military initially described Ahmad Kahla, who was 45, as a terrorist who had tried to carry out an attack.”


“On 15 January, the Israeli military first said that a Palestinian man had approached soldiers with a knife near Silwad.”

In fact, as noted by the Times of Israel on the day of the incident, that claim had not come from the IDF:

“Initial, unconfirmed reports by Hebrew-language media had suggested the suspect and several others were first hurling stones at a nearby military post and said the man then ran toward troops while allegedly brandishing a knife, before being shot.

The IDF did not say Kahla was armed or had been hurling stones in its statement.” [emphasis added]

Knell also states:

“Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, quoted an initial military inquiry as saying that a tussle ensued as a soldier tried to drag Mr Kahla from his vehicle.

He apparently tried to pull at a gun which had been used to hit him and was then shot.” [emphasis added]

The Kan 11 correspondent described the soldier as having tried to hit Kahla with the gun.

Knell goes on:

“Asked for a response, the Israeli military said that a military police investigation had been opened into what happened and that its findings would be transferred to the Military Advocate General’s office.

It is unusual for military prosecutors to press charges against troops in such cases.”

Knell does not provide any evidence to support that latter claim. Under the “Procedures for Dealing with Complaints Concerning Operational Activity”, the MAG carries out a fact-finding assessment and then decides whether the findings meet the requirements for a criminal investigation.

“Following a criminal investigation (or investigation by an Investigative Officer), the file is transferred back to the Office of the Military Advocate for Operational Affairs for review. After this review, the MAG decides whether to initiate criminal or disciplinary proceedings.”

The penultimate paragraph of Knell’s report uncritically promotes Palestinian Authority talking points:

“The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry strongly condemned what happened as a “heinous crime of execution”.”

Knell closes her report with what has become a standard – yet unhelpful – formula for portrayal of Palestinian casualties.

“In total, 18 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the first three weeks of this year, including militants and civilians.”

Once again, BBC audiences are not informed that the vast majority of those killed were involved in terrorism or violence at the time (including the latest casualty), with a significant proportion being linked to terrorist organisations.

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