Early on the morning of August 7th the BBC News website published a short uncredited report about an incident which had allegedly taken place several hours earlier.
As suggested by its headline – “Syria says four soldiers killed in Israeli strike in Damascus” – that article is based purely on reporting from the Syrian regime’s state news agency, with nothing to indicate that the claims had been independently verified by the BBC before publication.
“Four Syrian soldiers have been killed and another four wounded in an overnight Israeli missile attack, Syria’s state media say.
Sana news agency is quoting a military source as saying the strike near the capital Damascus also caused some material damage.
Some of the Israeli missiles were shot down, the source claims.”
As noted by the Times of Israel in its report on the same topic:
“SANA said Syrian air defenses managed to knock down “some” of the Israeli missiles. Syria regularly claims to intercept Israeli projectiles, though military analysts doubt such assertions.”
However, as has so often been the case in the past when the BBC has uncritically amplified claims from SANA, no attempt was made to alert readers to the unreliability of that outlet and the Syrian ‘military sources’ which – as the BBC knows full well – for years promoted lies and propaganda concerning chemical attacks.
In contrast to the BBC, other media outlets were able to provide additional information about the story. The Jerusalem Post, for example, told its readers that:
“The Syrian Capital Voice news site reported that the strikes targeted sites near Saidnayah and Mneen, north of Damascus, hitting warehouses belonging to the Syrian military used by Iran-backed militias.”
The Times of Israel was able to report that at least one of the “Syrian soldiers” killed was a military engineer:
“The fatalities were identified by Syrian media as Maj. Issa Taha Hammoud, Lt. Lu’ayy Bassam Muhammad, Lt. Ahmed Marei, and Lt. Sharaf Issa Mahmoud Abboud.
Hammoud was identified as a military engineer. There was no immediate information on the positions of the three lieutenants.”
AFP reported a claim that “four Syrian soldiers including one officer, as well as two Iran-backed fighters were killed in air strikes on Tehran-supported groups’ positions and warehouses for ammunition and weapons.”.
The BBC’s report states:
“Israel has so far made no comments. It frequently targets military sites in Syria linked to Iran-backed militants.”
Readers are left to guess for themselves to which “Iran-backed militants” the unidentified writer of this report refers and why “military sites” linked to them are “frequently targeted”.
It goes on:
“Israel’s military rarely acknowledges specific strikes on targets in Syria, where Iran’s influence has grown in recent years.”
Readers are not told why or in what ways “Iran’s influence has grown” in Syria “in recent years”. Neither are BBC audiences reminded that the regime whose media arm and military are uncritically quoted in this report is to a large extent dependent upon Iran.
The article closes:
“Israel and Iran are bitter foes and in recent years have been engaged in what has been described as a “shadow war” of unclaimed attacks on each other’s assets, infrastructure and nationals.”
Predictably, the BBC avoids providing an explanation of why “Israel and Iran are bitter foes”. While any information concerning Iran’s multi-front strategy against Israel is absent from this report, the BBC does however promote false equivalence between Israeli and Iranian actions – even though it knows full well that the latter include the targeting of random Israeli civilians abroad.
To sum up, all BBC audiences found in this report was uncritical amplification of a version of events presented by the Syrian regime, a mention of videos posted on social media, a link to an inadequate previous BBC report on a similar topic and three paragraphs of ‘background’ which in fact do absolutely nothing to enhance audience understanding of the context to this story.