BBC News fails to tell all on Rafah crossing reclosure

On the early evening of November 4th (Israel time) a report credited to Robert Plummer appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline ‘Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt fails to open for foreigners’. Over the next four and a half hours or so, some amendments were made to that article.

BBC audiences are told that: [emphasis added]

“The exit of foreigners from Gaza via the Rafah border crossing was halted on Saturday in an apparent dispute over evacuating injured patients.

Hundreds of foreign citizens have escaped through the crossing into Egypt in the past few days.

But on Saturday, no foreign nationals, dual nationals or injured patients were let through, Palestinian sources said.

Hundreds of people with foreign passports went to the border, but the gate did not open.

Sources from the crossing authorities on the Palestinian side told the BBC that movement of people with foreign passports is not being allowed until there is agreement on the safety of transferring injured patients.”

Plummer did not bother to tell his readers that “the crossing authorities on the Palestinian side” are Hamas and his opaque reference to “an apparent dispute over evacuating injured patients” clearly does not fully inform BBC audiences.

As was noted here last week, prior to the opening of Rafah crossing on November 1st, Hamas had prevented foreign passport holders from leaving the Gaza Strip. The New York Times coverage of that story includes a report headlined “Hamas put wounded fighters on departure lists, delaying efforts to evacuate foreigners, a U.S. official says”.

“A Biden administration official said on Friday that efforts to get Americans and other foreign nationals out of Gaza, a process that began on Wednesday, had been held up by a Hamas attempt to get its own wounded fighters included among those to be escorted into Egypt through the Rafah gate. […]

The official said that Hamas had repeatedly provided to Israel, the United States and Egypt lists of Palestinians who were wounded and should be allowed to depart with the Americans and others. But vetting showed that many of them, the official said, were Hamas fighters.

The official said that about a third of the wounded Palestinians on the first list were Hamas fighters and that allowing them to exit Gaza was unacceptable to officials in Egypt, the United States and Israel. The delays continued for some time, the official said, because Hamas kept offering lists that turned out to include its members.”

On November 4th AFP reported that:

“The Hamas government suspended the evacuation of foreigners and dual nationals to Egypt due to Israel’s refusal to transfer wounded Palestinians to Egyptian hospitals, according to what an official source in the Crossings Authority told AFP on Saturday.

The source, who did not want to reveal his identity, said, “No foreign passport holders will travel from the Gaza Strip until the wounded are coordinated and exited from hospitals in Gaza and the north towards the Rafah crossing” between the besieged Strip and Egyptian territory.”

The Washington Post reported on the same day that:

“The exit gate from Gaza into Egypt slammed shut again Saturday, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, of foreigners still waiting to leave the embattled enclave as Hamas demanded that more injured Palestinians be allowed to depart first.

A border official with the Hamas-controlled Gaza government said that “no foreign passport holders” would leave until “wounded people from hospitals” in Gaza City and other areas in the north, where Israeli warplanes this week struck hospitals and ambulances, were evacuated.”

In other words, what readers of Plummer’s report were not told is that it is the terrorist organisation Hamas – which has already tried to smuggle its own members out of the Gaza Strip using civilian ambulances – which is preventing some 7,000 foreign passport holders from leaving the territory.

Plummer later tells readers that:

“Israel has not allowed any fuel shipments to enter the Strip since the start of the war. It has also cut off electricity supplies, prompting calls from UN agencies for fuel supplies to be let into Gaza to power basic services.

But on Saturday, US special envoy David Satterfield told reporters that when the fuel runs out in Gaza, there is an agreed mechanism to bring more in.”

He does not bother to point out that before the war began, Israel only supplied about half of the Gaza Strip’s electricity via ten lines (nine of which have been damaged by terrorists’ rockets since October 7th). Neither does he bother to mention that Hamas has stockpiled between 850,000 to one million litres of fuel, including at Shifa hospital.

Plummer’s closing paragraphs relate to the November 3rd incident outside Shifa hospital in which the IDF struck an ambulance that was being used by a Hamas cell.

“On Friday, an ambulance that had been attempting to transport an injured person to the Rafah border crossing was hit outside Gaza City’s biggest hospital, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

The agency says 15 people were killed in the incident.

The Israeli military said a number of Hamas fighters had been killed and accused Hamas – which is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, UK and other powers – of transferring militants and weapons in ambulances, although it has not yet supplied evidence of this.”

Clearly Robert Plummer is less interested in evidence concerning the claim that the ambulance concerned was only transporting “an injured person”.

Previously we saw how the BBC refrained from reporting on Hamas’ refusal to allow foreign visitors to the Gaza Strip to leave. The terrorist organisation’s attempts to transport Hamas fighters out of the territory under the guise of civilian wounded were also not covered in any stand-alone BBC reporting. Now we see that the BBC is also airbrushing Hamas from the story of the reclosure of the Rafah crossing. Those omissions continue to be important, especially in light of the BBC’s amplification of complaints concerning the UK government’s handling of the situation from family members of foreign nationals effectively held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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