Omissions in BBC report on Jenin counter-terrorism operation

On the afternoon of June 19th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page, originally under the headline ‘Four Palestinians killed in Israeli military raid in Jenin’. In the following hours the report was amended several times, including to reflect the change in the number of fatalities. The following day it was amended again and its headline currently reads ‘Six Palestinians killed in Israeli military raid in Jenin’.

The report relates to a counter-terrorism operation carried out in Jenin earlier that day in order to arrest two wanted terrorists. Bateman’s portrayal of the beginning of that operation fails to inform readers of that aim: 

“Before dawn on Monday, undercover Israeli troops entered a neighbourhood on the edge of Jenin’s packed urban refugee camp, targeting the family home of a militant jailed by Israel, eyewitnesses said.

“I looked out the window and saw masked soldiers storming the house of our neighbour, Assem Abu al-Haija. After about a quarter of an hour, I heard several explosions and heavy gunfire,” Somaya Abu Samaan told Palestine TV.”

Bateman does not clarify that his reference to “a militant jailed by Israel” apparently means Jamal Abu al-Haija – a senior member of Hamas and the former commander of the Qassam brigades in the Jenin district who is serving nine life sentences for his involvement in suicide bombing attacks. That omission is all the more glaring given that on his Twitter feed, Bateman makes it clear that he is aware of that relevant background and the reason for the operation, as well as the fact that one of the two wanted men (who were successfully arrested) is that convicted terrorist’s son – also a Hamas operative – who has been imprisoned previously.

During that arrest operation the Israeli troops were attacked with gunfire (including from a mosque) and IEDs, which Bateman describes as follows:

“The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) described a “massive exchange of fire” between its forces and Palestinian gunmen.

Videos showed an explosion hitting armoured troop transport as shots rang out.

An Israeli military spokesman said a Panther troop carrier was hit by an “unusual and dramatic” improvised explosive device (IED), after which an Israeli Apache helicopter fired on an open area to repel the gunmen as forces extracted soldiers from the troop transport.

“We don’t know the nature of the IED, it was pretty intense,” Lt Col Richard Hecht said.

He said the IDF were now bringing in heavy machinery to try to extract the vehicles, while exchanges of fire with militants continued. He added that soldiers who were previously inside the carrier had been moved to other protected vehicles.”

Bateman’s reporting on the resulting injuries to Israeli troops includes superfluous punctuation:

“Seven Israeli soldiers and border police officers were wounded, three of them “moderately”, according to the army.”

Palestinian casualties are portrayed in the report’s opening paragraph as follows:

“Five Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy, have been killed by Israeli forces during a raid into Jenin refugee camp, Palestinian health officials say.”

Readers later also find the following:

“The Palestinian health ministry said four men and a 15-year-old boy were killed during the raid. The teenager was named as Ahmed Yousef Saqr.

The ministry added that more than 90 Palestinians were wounded, including a 15-year-old girl who local reports said was hit by a bullet which came through the wall of her home.

A Palestinian photojournalist covering the raid, Hazem Imad Nasser, was also among those wounded. Palestinian medics said he was undergoing surgery after being shot in his side.”

Fortunately for that photojournalist, not only were there two ambulances waiting nearby but also two people filming from different angles when he decided to walk through a field carrying camera equipment during a battle between terrorists and the IDF.

Only in paragraph twenty-eight are readers told that:

“Israel’s use of aircraft would “push our fighters to use tools that will surprise the enemy”, an official with the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said. It claimed two of the dead men as members.” [emphasis added]

In fact, by the time Bateman’s report appeared, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed three of the fatalities: Qasem Abu Sarea (29) and Qais Jabarin (21) from Jenin and Ahmed Daraghmeh, aged 19, from Tubas.

The other fatalities included Khaled Asaseh (21), Ahmed Saqr (or Saker), aged 15 and a sixth man named Amjad Aref Al-Jaas (48) who was later reported to have died. Fifteen year-old Ahmed Saqr was described as a fighter in a statement issued by Hamas’ Jenin branch. The terror-linked NGO DCI-Palestine reported as follows:

By way of background, Bateman tells readers that:

“Over the past 18 months, Israel has intensified its military search, arrest and home demolition raids into Palestinian cities in the occupied West Bank, amid a sharp rise in Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis – with casualty rates on both sides reaching levels not seen in many years.

Since the start of this year, at least 161 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while 21 Israelis have been killed.”

That first paragraph of course does not adequately clarify that it is the rise in the number of Palestinian terror attacks which has caused counter-terrorism operations to become more frequent and neither does Bateman bother to explain that what he calls “home demolition raids” relate to the perpetrators of terror attacks.

His portrayal of the number of Palestinian casualties whitewashes the fact that the majority were terrorists or males engaged in violence at the time whereas all but one of the Israeli fatalities were civilians.

Bateman uncritically amplifies the talking points of the Palestinian Authority:

“The Palestinian Authority described the raid as “Israeli aggression on Jenin [which] is a serious, dangerous escalation and must stop immediately”. […]

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s civil affairs minister, said a “fierce and open war is being waged against the Palestinian people… by the occupation forces”.

He called for the Palestinian leadership to take “unprecedented decisions” without elaborating.”

Notably, Bateman did not bother to inform readers that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is obliged to “act systematically against all expressions of violence and terror” in areas under its control and thus make Israeli counter-terrorism operations unnecessary.

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