Reviewing BBC Verify reporting on the Salah al Din road explosion

Previously we have discussed reporting by the BBC’s relatively new fact-checking brand BBC Verify on incidents in Israel on October 7th and in the Gaza Strip on October 17th:

EXAMINING BBC VERIFY REPORTS ON THE OCTOBER 7 EVENTS IN ISRAEL

REVIEWING BBC VERIFY REPORTING ON THE AL AHLI HOSPITAL INCIDENT

Another incident that was the subject of a BBC Verify report took place in the Gaza Strip early on the evening of October 13th.

Early on October 15th (Israel time) the BBC News website published a report headlined ‘Strike on civilian convoy fleeing Gaza: What we know from verified video’. The date stamp was subsequently amended to read October 16th and numerous changes were made to the report over the next three days.

Credited to Paul Brown and Jemimah Herd, that report opens as follows: [emphasis added]

“Reports first emerged on Friday evening of a strike on a convoy of vehicles heading towards southern Gaza. These vehicles were carrying civilians, who were fleeing northern Gaza after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued an evacuation order.

Videos showing the carnage at the scene emerged shortly afterwards.

BBC Verify has confirmed the strike occurred on Salah-al-Din street, which is one of two evacuation routes from northern Gaza to the south.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says 70 people were killed at the scene, and Hamas blamed Israel for the attack. The IDF has told the BBC it had no involvement in the incident.”

Like the report’s headline, those opening paragraphs state as fact that a “strike” – implying military involvement – had taken place on a convoy without providing any supporting evidence.

In the fourth paragraph the “Palestinian Health Ministry” is cited without any explanation of the fact that it is part of the Hamas terrorist organisation. Moreover, the use of the phrase “and Hamas” leads readers to the erroneous conclusion that the “Palestinian Health Ministry” and “Hamas” are two separate bodies.

The fact that Hamas is a terrorist organisation is not mentioned in either those four opening paragraphs or anywhere else in the report and neither is the fact that Hamas initiated the current conflict with its invasion of Israel, its barbarous slaughter of over 1,400 Israelis and its taking of over 200 others hostage – including babies, children and senior citizens.

While Brown and Herd mention the fact that the IDF had advised civilians in the Gaza Strip to evacuate to the south, they fail to tell BBC audiences that Hamas had instructed civilians not to follow that advice – and actively prevented some from doing so – or that Hamas and other terrorist organisations had also told residents of the Gaza Strip to ignore previous warnings from the IDF.

Only in the report’s penultimate line do readers find a brief qualified mention of that issue – without the word Hamas:

“The IDF says its enemies are trying to prevent civilians leaving the north.”

As readers of BBC Verify’s report will quickly understand, the only facts that the BBC’s fact-checking department managed to establish were the date, time and location of the incident.

“We spoke to several weapons experts but they said it is hard to tell what caused the explosion based on the videos of the aftermath.”

At the bottom of the report readers are told that:

“BBC Verify will continue to monitor the situation and report any updates.”

However that report has not been updated since October 17th and BBC audiences have not been informed of analysis from several other sources which does not support the claims made by Hamas, including a report by Sky News:

The fact that BBC Verify refrained from informing audiences of those analyses is particularly relevant in light of the fact that a BBC tweet claiming that the fatal explosion was caused by a “missile strike” still remains online.

Once again we see that – despite the hype surrounding its launch – BBC Verify is not providing audiences with the full range of information which would enhance their understanding of stories related to the current war between Israel and Hamas.

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