BBC portrayals of shortfall missiles again compromise audience understanding

Between May 9th and May 14th the BBC News website published six reports concerning Operation Shield and Arrow:

May 9th: Israeli strikes on Gaza kill top militants and 10 civilians David Gritten, discussed here

May 10th: Israel and Gaza militants in heaviest fighting for months Raffi Berg & David Gritten, discussed here

May 10th: A very frightening day for Israelis and Palestinians Yolande Knell

May 11th: Rocket kills woman in Israel as strikes target Gaza militant commanders  Raffi Berg & Rushdi Abualouf, discussed here

May 12th: Gaza: Sixth militant commander killed in Israeli air strike David Gritten & Raffi Berg, discussed here and here

May 14th: Israel-Gaza: Shaky start to ceasefire ending five days of fighting David Gritten, discussed here

The sixth and final report tells BBC audiences that:[emphasisadded]

“At least 33 Palestinians have been killed since Tuesday in Gaza, where Israel says it has struck PIJ targets.” […]

“Israel began its military operation in Gaza before dawn on Tuesday, killing three leaders of PIJ in their homes as well as at least 10 civilians, including relatives and neighbours of the men.” […]

“About half of the 33 people killed in Gaza were civilians, including seven children and four women, according to local health officials.”

The use of the word “including” is misleading to readers given that all of the ten civilians killed on May 9th were either family members or neighbours of the three Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders targeted on that day.

BBC audiences are not told that the “local health officials” it quotes are employees of the notoriously unreliable Hamas ministry of health. The absence of that information is relevant because the claim that “about half of the 33 people killed in Gaza were civilians” is misleading.

Twenty of the thirty-three were members of terrorist organisations, including two members of the Mujahedeen Brigades who were launching rockets at the time but nevertheless were portrayed in the BBC’s fourth report as follows:

“Not long afterwards, Palestinian health officials reported that another two people were killed in the Shejaiya area of Gaza City.”

As noted above, ten civilians were killed in IDF strikes on senior members of the PIJ terrorist organisation on May 9th, including four women and four children.

The remaining fatalities – three or possibly four – were caused by missiles launched by terror groups in the Gaza Strip which fell short of the border.

One of those fatalities was 51-year-old Ahmed Muhammad Ghanmi al-Shubaki – a member of the PA security forces – who was killed by PIJ missile-firing malfunction in northern Gaza Strip on May 10th. Some reports state that a 16-year-old boy called Rami Shadi Hamdan was killed in the same incident.

Also on May 10th, a ten-year-old girl called Liyan Bilal Madoukh and a 17 or 20-year-old male named Yazen Jawdat Fathi Alian were killed by a shortfall Palestinian missile in Gaza City.

The BBC’s portrayal of the issue of Palestinian casualties due to shortfall or malfunctioning missiles however was as follows:

Article 2: “A 10-year-old girl was also killed in Gaza City in unclear circumstances. […] The IDF said one in four rockets fired at it had fallen short and landed inside Gaza.”

Article 4: “The Israeli military said four people, including three children, were killed in Gaza by rockets falling short on Wednesday, though this has not been corroborated by Palestinian sources. PIJ denied the allegation and accused Israel of trying to evade responsibility for their deaths.”

Article 5: “The military says 181 of the rockets fell short inside Gaza and that they have killed four people there, including three children. Islamic Jihad denies the allegation.”

Article 6: “The military says 221 of the rockets have fallen short inside Gaza and that they have killed four people there, including three children. Islamic Jihad denies the allegation.”

As anyone who has followed BBC reporting – or lack of it – on the topic of shortfall missiles over the years will be aware, there is sadly nothing novel about the lack of journalistic curiosity displayed in those portrayals and the amplification of denials and accusations from a terrorist organisation.

The BBC’s failure to independently verify the number of fatalities resulting from shortfall missiles and to distinguish between those and the casualties resulting from IDF operations means that it unquestioningly promotes the misleading claim regarding the ratio of combatant/civilian casualties put out by the health ministry run by the Hamas terrorist organisation which leads the Joint Operations Room that was behind the missile fire between May 9th and May 13th.

Hence, rather than the actual ratio of two combatants to one civilian resulting from IDF operations, BBC audiences were told that “[a]bout half of the 33 people killed in Gaza were civilians”, without adequate clarification concerning deaths caused by Palestinian terrorist organisations.

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1 Comment

  1. says: Grimey

    All events in Israel are scrutinised by the so-called “journalists” at the BBC’s Jerusalem office – to harvest items that can be distorted, have details omitted or simply falsified – in order to maximise the demonisation of the Israeli State.

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