A BBC journalist promotes a Lebanese terror group’s claims as ‘news’

On March 27th the BBC News website published a report by Robert Greenall under the headline “Israel and Hezbollah trade strikes over Lebanon border”.

As has been the case in most of the BBC’s reporting of events along and around Israel’s border with Lebanon in recent months, that headline – along with Greenall’s subsequent portrayal – promotes the notion of equivalence without any clarification of the fact that it was Hizballah (which he cannot bring himself to describe as a terrorist organisation even though it is designated by the UK government) that began the conflict by attacking Israel on October 8th. [emphasis added]

“The strikes come as Israel and Hezbollah trade almost daily strikes across the border, which began with the start of the Israel-Gaza war following the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia Muslim militant group with close ties to Iran and an ally of Hamas.”

Greenall’s report opens by telling readers that:

“Hezbollah has fired a barrage of rockets into northern Israel, killing one person, in response to deadly Israeli strikes on a Lebanese village.”

The attack on Kiryat Shmona, to which the first half of that sentence refers, is portrayed from paragraph eight onwards as follows:

“Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets at the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona and a military base there on Wednesday morning.

Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said a factory worker was pulled from wreckage after one of the strikes hit an industrial park triggering a fire.

He had severe wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene, it added.

Hezbollah said the rocket attacks were “in response to the massacre in Habbariyeh”.”

BBC audiences are not told that the person described only as “a factory worker” was Zaher Bashara, a resident of the Druze community of Ein Kinya in the Golan Heights who worked as a driver at the paper factory employing special needs workers that was hit by Hizballah’s missiles. Neither are they informed that a home in Kiryat Shmona also suffered a direct hit.

Greenall’s portrayal of the incident in Habbariyeh begins in paragraph two:

“Lebanese sources said seven people were killed in the Israeli attack overnight on Habbariyeh, making it one of the deadliest in recent violence.

Israel said militants were killed, including one involved in attacks on Israel.

The Lebanese group targeted said those killed were “rescuers”.”

It continues in paragraph twelve:

“Lebanese officials said the strikes on the village had hit an emergency and relief centre for Jamaa Islamiya, a Sunni Muslim group with links to Hamas.

The Lebanese Ambulance Association, quoted by the Associated Press, called the strike a “flagrant violation of humanitarian work”.”

Greenall’s decidedly unhelpful ‘he said-she said’ account continues:

“The Israel Defense Forces described the target as a “military compound”.

They said: “A significant terrorist operative belonging to the Jamaa Islamiya organisation who advanced attacks against Israeli territory was eliminated along with additional terrorists who were with him.””

If Greenall has been reading AP material relating to Jamaa Islamiya, then he should be familiar with that outlet’s recent interview with the leader of that terrorist group.

“The head of a Lebanese Sunni political and militant group that has joined the Shiite militant group Hezbollah in its fight against Israel on Lebanon’s border said Tuesday that the conflict has helped strengthen cooperation between the two groups. […]

The Islamic Group is one of Lebanon’s main Sunni factions but has kept a low profile politically over the years. […]

Like Hamas, it is inspired by the ideology of the Pan-Arab Islamist political movement The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 by a school teacher-turned-Islamic ideologue Hassan al-Banna.

It carries out attacks against Israel mainly from the southern city of Sidon where the group once enjoyed wide influence.

Takkoush said his group makes its own decisions in the field but coordinates closely with Hezbollah, and with the Lebanese branch of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. […]

The Islamic Group’s armed wing, known as the Fajr Forces, has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks along the Lebanon-Israel border since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.”

The Alma Research and Education Center reports that:

“The movement’s offices are located in the same building that houses Hamas’ headquarters in Lebanon. The “Araf Center”, is a six-story building located in the northern part of Sidon.

Hamas has excessive influence on Al-Jamaah al-Islamiyah, numerous of its operatives receive an allowance through Hamas’ charity and humanitarian organization networks throughout Lebanon. The movement consists of 2 political factions: one, is loyal to Turkey and Qatar, while the other is intent on an alliance with Hezbollah and the “Resistance Axis”. […]

On October 18, 2023, Al-Jamaah al-Islamiyah announced that it had launched rockets at Israel for the first time. The Islamic Organization issued an official claim of responsibility, announcing that operatives of its military wing, the Al-Fajr Forces, had fired rockets at Kiryat Shmona in two different volleys.”

With regard to the strike in Habbariyeh, the Alma Center notes that:

“On March 27, the IDF attacked a building in the Sunni village of Al-Habariya, which is located on the western slopes of Har Dov, south of Hasbaya. The attack was launched against a squad of operatives from the Al-Fajr Forces, the military wing of Lebanon’s Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah movement, who were preparing to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel in the immediate future, apparently through an on-foot infiltration into Israeli territory in the Har Dov area.

The airstrike killed seven operatives. Some of the killed operatives had been active in recent anti-Israel activities.”

The Times of Israel reported that:

“Overnight, the IDF said it had struck a “military building” in Habbariyeh, killing a “significant terrorist” of the al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya group, along with several other operatives who were with him in the building.

The IDF said the target, who was not named, had “advanced attacks against Israeli territory.”

According to the IDF, the al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya cell planned an infiltration attack on the border.

Two security sources told Reuters that seven people were killed in a strike on an emergency and relief center belonging to Jamaa al-Islamiya in Habbariyeh.

All seven were members of the terror group, according to the Israeli military.”

And:

“Two members of the group were killed in an Israeli strike in Beirut on January 2 that also killed top Hamas terrorist Saleh al-Arouri.”

In other words, the strike in Habbariyeh was a pre-emptive operation against the military wing of an Islamist terror group planning an attack on Israel rather than a “massacre” of “rescuers” involved in “humanitarian work” as reported by Greenall.

The BBC’s practice of publishing banal ‘he said-she said’ accounts – which are all too often based on unverified claims from highly dubious sources and unconfirmed reports from other media outlets – clearly does not ensure audience understanding of a specific story or its wider context.

However, over the past six months it has become even more clear that, rather than making the effort to find out what actually happened and report stories accurately and impartially, the BBC is quite content to opt for speed and quantity over quality journalism.

Related Articles:

BBC NEWS REPORTS ‘ISRAEL STRIKES’ BUT FAILS TO PROVIDE FULL CONTEXT

BBC BACKGROUNDER ON ‘A WEEK OF MISSILE STRIKES’ ERASES ATTACKS ON ISRAEL

More from Hadar Sela
Weekend long read
1) At Ynet, Ron Ben-Yishai provides ‘Six reasons why Israel can’t agree...
Read More
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *