BBC News website coverage of Rafah hostage rescue

On the morning of February 13th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel Gaza: Biden says Israel must protect vulnerable in Rafah”. As pointed out by Israeli spokesman Eylon Levy to a member of the BBC Verify team, that report included the inaccurate claim that “Rafah – on the border with Egypt – is the only open point of entry for humanitarian aid into Gaza”.

Some eight hours after the report’s original publication, that inaccurate claim was removed but no footnote was added to inform BBC audiences of the amendment.

The same inaccurate claim is also found in another BBC report that had been published early on the morning of the previous day (February 12th) and which currently appears under the headline “Israel rescues two hostages in Rafah amid deadly strikes”.

CAMERA UK has submitted a complaint to the BBC on that issue.

The headlines to early versions of that uncredited report about the rescue of two Israeli hostages from Rafah early on February 12th included “Israel says two hostages freed in Rafah as strikes reported” and “Israel says two hostages rescued in Rafah as strikes reported” and the accompanying images included the following:

The current version of the report is 667 words long. Background to the story is provided in fifty-eight words. The rescue operation itself is described in 231 words, while accounts from Palestinians in Rafah and claims from the Hamas-run health ministry are presented in 177 words. Over 30% of the report’s word count (201 words) is devoted to the amplification of “warnings from the international community over Israel’s planned offensive in the city”.

With regard to the “deadly strikes” described in the report’s headline, readers are told that:

“Some 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah. The Hamas-run health ministry said dozens had been killed in the overnight strikes.”


“There are conflicting reports on Palestinian casualties from the air strikes: the AFP news agency reported that “around 100 people” were killed, citing Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that at least 50 people were killed, quoting local hospital officials.”

The BBC’s journalistic curiosity did not extend to trying to find out how many of those killed were terrorists, even though the report also quotes the IDF spokesman as saying:

“…Israeli forces had engaged in “heavy exchanges of fire at several locations simultaneously, with many terrorists”.”

On the evening of February 12th the BBC News website published a second report on the topic of the hostage rescue operation.

Written by David Gritten and headlined “Gaza war: What we know about Israel’s Rafah hostage rescue raid”, that report includes 446 words about the operation itself and the rescued hostages. A further 487 words – mostly under the sub-heading “What do Palestinians say?” – present accounts from Palestinians in Rafah and statements from Hamas.

Gritten considered it appropriate to provide uncritical amplification for obviously far-fetched, inaccurate and misleading claims:

“”So much terror. Something you’ve never seen. Not in Hollywood in the US, not in Libya, not in Syria… Only in Rafah,” he told Reuters news agency.” […]

“Hamas described the attack as a continuation of Israel’s “genocidal war” against the Palestinian people, while the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry condemned what it called an Israeli “massacre” in Rafah.”

Gritten’s report includes quotes from the IDF spokesman: [emphasis added]

“”On the second floor, Louis and Fernando were held by armed Hamas terrorists, who were present in the building along with terrorists who were in the adjacent buildings.”

“From the moment of the breach and entry into the apartment, Yamam forces shielded Louis and Fernando with their bodies, initiating a daring battle and heavy exchanges of fire at several locations simultaneously, with many terrorists.”

Adm Hagari added: “By 01:50, aerial fire was activated by the Israeli Air Force and Southern Command, to enable the force’s disengagement and to strike Hamas terrorists in the area.

“At this stage, the forces extracted Louis and Fernando from the apartment and evacuated them under fire…”

Nevertheless, when he later quotes the Hamas authorities on the subject of casualty figures – “Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said in a statement on Monday morning that at least 67 people had been killed and that the number could rise as rescue and recovery operations continued” – Gritten does not bother to clarify to BBC audiences that Hamas deliberately refrains from distinguishing between combatants and civilians and so the number 67 includes armed Hamas terrorists who attacked the rescue team.


The BBC News website has added a footnote to the February 13th report:

In addition, the February 12th report has also been amended and now reads “Rafah – on the border with Egypt – is one of two open points of entry for humanitarian aid into Gaza – the other is Kerem Shalom.” and a footnote has been added:




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1 Comment

  1. says: Wayne S Goldstein

    The February 12th report has been corrected with published note of correction.
    It’s probably only because Eylon Levy has a six-figure social media readership.

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