BBC Verify yet again plays the stooge for Hamas casualty figures

On the afternoon of February 29th a BBC Verify report titled “Israel Gaza: Checking Israel’s claim to have killed 10,000 Hamas fightersappeared on the BBC News website.

Credited to Merlyn Thomas, Jake Horton and Benedict Garman, that report begins with the following framing:

“Israel faces growing concern about the number of civilian deaths, after at least 30,000 Palestinians were reported killed in Gaza – as well as pressure to show it is eliminating Hamas as it vowed after 7 October. BBC Verify examines Israel’s claims about how many of those killed were combatants.”

It goes on:

“The Israeli military says it has killed more than 10,000 fighters in its air strikes and ground operations in response to the Hamas attack which killed about 1,200 people.

But there are concerns about whether it is able to separate fighters from ordinary civilians.”

As we will see, BBC Verify was clearly considerably less perturbed about the issue of “concerns” about Hamas’ separation of “fighters from ordinary civilians”.

Citing a Reuters report published ten days before the appearance of this item (previously discussed here), the report tells readers that:

“Hamas does not provide any figures for its military fatalities. The Reuters news agency reported that an official had admitted 6,000 fighters had been killed, but Hamas denied this figure to the BBC.”

Readers are not told the name of the terrorist organisation official to whom the BBC apparently has a direct line or whether that communication with Hamas was cleared according to BBC editorial guidelines:

“11.2.6 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror, to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

The report goes on:

“The toll of at least 30,035 killed, from Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, has previously been described as trustworthy by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional emergency director Richard Brennan.

The WHO says the ministry has “good capacity in data collection” and its previous reporting has been credible and “well developed”.

But its overall tally of those killed does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.”

Of course neither the WHO nor any other body can currently confirm whether or not the figures put out by the Hamas terrorist organisation’s health ministry are “trustworthy” or not. As noted by WINEP in January:

“Counting fatalities in the midst of any conflict is difficult, let alone in urban battles like those playing out in Gaza. Hamas has exceptional incentives—plus the means, methods, and opportunities—to exaggerate the numbers of civilian deaths. Most obviously, Gaza Health Ministry and GMO metrics show signs of being repeatedly massaged to omit or obscure male fatalities—the category most likely to include combatants. If Gaza fatality counts fail to distinguish combatants from noncombatants, underreport the deaths of men, and highlight the deaths of women and children—as they have done until now—then observers can be expected to assume that mainly women and children are being killed.

Although thousands of Palestinian noncombatants, including military-age males, have undoubtedly been killed in the Hamas-initiated conflict, the world must also recognize that the group has manipulated and exploited civilian fatality claims for its strategic benefit, in an attempt to truncate Israel’s air and ground operations and stir international outrage. The international media and NGOs have repeated such claims without proper scrutiny and in turn validated and reinforced Hamas propaganda efforts. In reality, no one yet knows the proportion of civilians harmed versus Hamas fighters, and judgment should be reserved or at least qualified as an interim assessment informed largely by low-quality metrics provided by a combatant with a track record of propagandizing civilian deaths.”

The cited WHO claim that the Hamas health ministry’s “previous reporting has been credible” does not stand up to scrutiny.

As recently pointed out by Salo Aizenberg, during the 2008/9 three-week conflict, Hamas claimed that just 48 of around 1,300 casualties were combatants. Following an investigation, Israel provided the names of 709 Hamas operatives out of 1,166 casualties. Months later, Hamas admitted that between 600 -700 of its fighters had been killed. After the 2014 conflict, Hamas claimed that 70% of the 2,131 casualties were civilians. Later analysis showed that around 55% of the casualties were combatants.

In addition, BBC Verify makes no effort to inform readers that civilians killed as a result of the actions of terrorist organisations – such as the al Ahli hospital explosion or other incidents involving shortfall missiles – are included in Hamas’ tallies.

Nevertheless, BBC Verify’s report goes on to uncritically quote data provided by a terrorist organisation and – incredibly for a supposed ‘fact checking’ department – to promote assumptions based on that unconfirmed claim:

“The Gaza authorities’ last demographic breakdown from 29 February indicated more than 70% of those killed had been women and children.

So, with the figures suggesting less than 30% of those killed were men – some of whom are likely to be over fighting age – experts have raised questions about how Israel arrived at its claim of killing 10,000 fighters.” [emphasis added]

Get it? BBC Verify’s argument is that if 70% of the around 30,000 people reported killed – i.e. 21,000 – are women and children, then Israel’s “claim of killing 10,000 fighters” cannot be true.

Notably, BBC Verify has nothing to tell readers about the fact that Hamas and other terrorist organisations recruit minors – i.e. individuals who would be classed as children according to the Hamas statistics – beyond a quote from the Israeli embassy in London:

“The Israeli embassy in the UK told us they think the total number of Hamas fighters killed is “between 10,000 and 12,000”.

But they said it was hard to distinguish between civilians and combatants as many of them are not wearing military uniform and Hamas also has fighters who are aged 16 and 17.”

Later in the report, readers discover the identity of one of those experts.

“But some experts are concerned that the IDF might be counting some non-combatants as fighters merely because they are part of the Hamas-run territory’s administration.

Andreas Krieg, a senior lecturer in security studies at Kings College London, said: “Israel takes a very broad approach to ‘Hamas membership’, which includes any affiliation with the organisation, including civil servants or administrators.””

As noted by David Collier, Krieg – who has also been quoted by BBC Verify in relation to a different story – previously worked “as a contractor of the Qatari Armed Forces”. Despite BBC editorial guidelines concerning “contributors’ affiliations”, BBC Verify obviously did not consider it necessary to inform readers of its quoted expert’s previous employment with a state that funds, hosts and supports Hamas.

Once again uncritically quoting unconfirmed information provided by the Hamas terrorist organisation, BBC Verify tells readers that:

“The fatality data for the current conflict from the Gaza health ministry shows a sharp increase in the proportion of women and children among the dead compared with previous wars.”

Readers then find one of the fancy graphs which so often appear in BBC Verify content (in this case credited to Hamas and the political NGO B’tselem) – but which, of course, are no substitute for actual facts – before another expert is brought in to support the chosen narrative.

“This “indicates a much higher civilian death rate,” according to Rachel Taylor, the executive director of the Every Casualty Counts organisation, a UK-based organisation that aims to record victims of violent conflicts.”

Interestingly, the record of the executive director of that UK charity includes having set up “a global database on child military exploitation” but once again the topic of child soldiers within the ranks of Hamas and other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip is avoided:

“Nearly half of Gaza’s population is under 18 and about 44% of the fatalities of war are also children, according to the Gaza authorities’ 29 February demographic data. Ms Taylor said the fact that the deaths closely track the demographics of the general population “indicates indiscriminate killing”.”

BBC Verify’s report closes with a quote from a political NGO which has engaged in lawfare against Israel in which the numbers provided by a terrorist organisation are again not even questioned:

“B’tselem, a Jerusalem-based human rights organisation, said the current war is far deadlier than previous conflicts between Israel and Gaza.

Spokesperson Dror Sadot said: “These are numbers that we never saw in previous wars and strikes in Gaza or the other territories.””

Readers are not told that the “previous wars” and operations were of a much shorter duration with the longest, in 2014, having lasted 49 days.

As we already know, there is nothing novel about BBC Verify’s portrayal of Hamas-supplied data as “credible” – that policy has been in place since last November:


Unfortunately for BBC audiences, there is also nothing new about the BBC’s failure to acknowledge and explain the highly relevant topic of manipulation of civilian casualty figures by Hamas and its supporters as part of their propaganda war aimed at garnering Western public opinion.

Nevertheless, the BBC ‘anti-disinformation’ department’s exclusive reliance on the completely unverified claims put out by the terrorist organisation that began this war in order to cast doubt on statements made by the IDF will surely go down as one of the low points in BBC coverage of this conflict.

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  1. says: John Charity Spring

    It’s shameful.

    The BBC refuses to even call Hamas terrorists, which they are. I think that alone tells you all you need to know about their views.

    According to the BBC, whatever Hamas say is the gospel truth. Especially if it involves civilian deaths. Whatever Israel says is considered immediately suspect and inaccurate. But the BBC is impartial and definitely not anti-Semitic. It was “verified” after all, right?

    Hamas does not value life in the same manner as the West. They hold different cultural and religious values. Civilians who die in this conflict are martyrs to the cause. In fact, I am surprised they are not queuing up for a place in Paradise. If Hamas cared about civilian casualties, it would have negotiated a ceasefire long ago. It does not. Instead it makes more outlandish demands like 1-100 hostage/prisoner swaps. To the BBC this is perfectly reasonable. Hamas knows it can play Western heartstrings on the topic for military and political gain. Gazans voted for and support Hamas. Where I come from, this is called “reaping what you sow”.

    Even the USA government has fallen under this spell of constant media twisting and manipulation over “civilians” to drop aid – a shameful stab in the back for Israel. What next, Kamala, arms for Hamas too? Fighters running low on ammo or anti-tank weapons? This serves no political strategic purpose except to concede to Hamas and condone terrorism. I love the USA but seriously, they got it very very wrong here and Hamas is laughing it up and wanting an encore. While Hamas is on its knees, it needs to be decapitated not helped back up.

    Adults with the tiny minds of children and myopia write for the BBC. And it is accepted by similar people with small minds who cannot think nor reason for themselves, or just outright believe Hamas are a bunch of stand up guys (all men of course). Or we could call these self-titled “journalists” apologists for Hamas, supporters of terrorism and round them up as collaborators, which would be my personal preference (and then of course the irony being they’d all jump up and down about press freedom and freedom of speech which is a great joke already in the UK thanks in no small part to their own efforts).

  2. says: Grimey

    The Muslim-infiltrated IPC (aka BBC) has sunk so low in its policy to demonise Israel by publishing lies and omissions that it has defeated its own purpose. It is now watched only by antisemites – whilst intelligent viewers have switched to France24 and other media that produce non-edited news.

  3. says: Mike

    The BBC now glories under the title “Verify” just to add a sense of legitimacy to the patently false casualty figures. But I think that there is an important background to this that is being missed; In what other conflict, especially those where the casualty figures are even higher than those from that of the so-called “Health Ministry” peddles, are fatality figures given such prominence?

    I stand to be corrected but I know of none. In other words, the figures are being weaponised against Israel and the Jews.

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