How did a BBC report on ‘mass graves’ come about?

The evolution of a news story is sometimes no less interesting than the story itself.

One such example appeared in the form of a report by David Gritten published on the BBC News website on the evening of April 23rd under the headline “UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by mass grave reports at Gaza hospitals”.

So how did that BBC report come about?

Two days earlier the Qatari media outlet Al Jazeera published reports about claims made by “Palestinian civil defence crews” – i.e. Hamas – concerning the ‘discovery’ of mass graves in the grounds of the Nasser and Shifa hospitals in the Gaza Strip. Those claims were quickly exposed as disinformation:

Nevertheless, additional media outlets and interested parties (including a past BBC contributor from a Hamas-linked ‘humanitarian’ NGO) picked up that Hamas supplied story. CNN, for example, reported on April 22nd that:

“A mass grave with more than 300 bodies has been uncovered at a hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, Gaza Civil Defense workers said, following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area earlier this month.

Col. Yamen Abu Suleiman, Director of Civil Defense in Khan Younis told CNN that 35 bodies had been discovered at the Nasser Medical Complex on Tuesday, bringing the total to 310. Some 73 bodies had been discovered on Monday, Suleiman said.

Suleiman alleged that some of the bodies had been found with hands and feet tied, “and there were signs of field executions. We do not know if they were buried alive or executed. Most of the bodies are decomposed.”

CNN is unable to verify Suleiman’s claims and cannot confirm the causes of death among the bodies being unearthed.”

CNN did not adequately clarify that the source of its story (and many others) – the “Director of Civil Defence in Khan Younis” – is a Hamas operative.

Following that media flurry, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights put out a statement repeating the unproven claims made by Hamas and promoted by media outlets.

“Disturbing reports continue to emerge about mass graves in Gaza in which Palestinian victims were reportedly found stripped naked with their hands tied, prompting renewed concerns about possible war crimes amid ongoing Israeli airstrikes, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday.”

That UN statement prompted another round of media coverage and thus we arrive at Gritten’s report, which opens as follows: [emphasis added]

“The UN’s human rights chief has said he is “horrified” by the destruction of Gaza’s Nasser and al-Shifa hospitals and the reports of “mass graves” being found at the sites after Israeli raids.

Volker Türk called for independent investigations into the deaths.

Palestinian officials said they had exhumed the bodies of almost 300 people at Nasser. It is not clear how they died or when they were buried.”

Linking to another UN statement, Gritten later tells readers that:

“A spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office said it was currently working on corroborating reports from Palestinian officials that 283 bodies had been found in Nasser hospital’s grounds, including 42 which had been identified.

“Victims had reportedly been buried deep in the ground and covered with waste,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

“Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others… were found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes.”

Mr Türk called for independent, effective and transparent investigations into the deaths, adding: “Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators.”

“Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law. And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees, and others who are hors de combat [not participating in hostilities] is a war crime.””

Gritten does not bother to inform BBC audiences that hospitals lose their “special protection” when they are used for military purposes, as was the case in both Nasser and Shifa. Neither does he raise the relevant question of whether the bodies found include those of Hamas fighters and/or people killed by Hamas.

Gritten does however employ the now standard BBC tactic of promoting the denials of a terrorist organisation despite ample proof to the contrary.

“The Israeli military has said it has raided a number of hospitals in Gaza during the war because Hamas fighters have been operating inside them – a claim Hamas and medical officials have denied.”

Unsurprisingly, Gritten also adopts the BBC practice of uncritically promoting unverified casualty figures supplied by the same terrorist organisation:

“More than 34,180 people – most of them children and women – have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.”

One of the saddest things about Gritten’s report is that he is obviously aware of the fact that burials took place in hospital grounds before the IDF operations at Nasser and Shifa. Linking to one of his own prior reports, he tells readers that:

“Israel’s military said claims that it buried bodies there were “baseless”.

But it did say that during a two-week operation at the hospital in the city of Khan Younis in February, troops “examined” bodies buried by Palestinians “in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages”.

Ten hostages who have now been released have said that they were held at Nasser hospital for long periods during their captivity.

Prior to the Israeli operation at Nasser, staff there had said they were being forced to bury bodies in the hospital’s courtyard because nearby fighting prevented access to cemeteries. There were similar reports from al-Shifa before the first Israeli raid on the hospital took place in November.”

Gritten is also clearly aware of the fact that the claims he amplifies in this report come from the terrorist organisation which started the war. That, however, does not prevent him from using that terrorist organisation’s terminology:

“On Monday, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Civil Defense force told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Today programme that it had received reports from local Palestinians that the bodies of a “large number” of people who had been killed during the war and buried in a makeshift cemetery in the hospital’s courtyard were moved to another location during the Israeli raid.

“After research and investigation, we learned that the occupation [Israeli] army had established a mass grave, pulled out the bodies that were in Nasser hospital, and buried them in this mass grave,” Mahmoud Basal said. […]

Hamas has alleged that the bodies include people “executed in cold blood” by Israeli forces, without providing evidence.”

In typical ‘he said-she said’ BBC style, Gritten goes on to quote an IDF statement on the matter.

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement on Tuesday: “The claim that the IDF buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded.”

“During the IDF’s operation in the area of Nasser Hospital, in accordance to the effort to locate hostages and missing persons, corpses buried by Palestinians in the area of Nasser hospital were examined.

“The examination was conducted in a careful manner and exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages. The examination was carried out respectfully while maintaining the dignity of the deceased. Bodies examined, which did not belong to Israeli hostages, were returned to their place.”

The IDF said that its forces had detained “about 200 terrorists who were in the hospital” during the raid, and that they found ammunition as well as unused medicines intended for Israeli hostages.

It also insisted that the raid was carried out “in a targeted manner and without harming the hospital, the patients and the medical staff”.”

However, he then goes on to re-promote still unverified allegations made by hospital staff with histories of supporting terrorism and reported by journalists, some of whom have similarly dubious records.

“However, three medical staff told the BBC last month that they were humiliated, beaten, doused with cold water, and forced to kneel for hours after being detained during the raid.”

In short, Gritten’s article  – which does not include any original reporting – is nothing more than a compilation of Hamas claims (that, despite having its own fact-checking department, the BBC has done nothing to confirm independently) and subsequently issued statements. The sole function of Gritten’s ‘he said-she said’ account of what he does not even know is a real story is to promote the sensational smears touted by a terrorist organisation and its sympathisers for publicity purposes.

The BBC would apparently have its audiences believe that such reckless ‘journalism’ is “news you can trust”.

Related Articles:



More from Hadar Sela
BBC silent on upcoming UNGA vote
BBC ignores PA's team up with Hamas against UN resolution.
Read More
Join the Conversation


  1. says: Neil C

    Gritten is the next generation of antisemitic BBC reporters no doubt he had his information ‘verified’ by BBC Verify, an extension arm of Al Jaz and Hamas, what a joke the BBC has become #defundthebbc

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

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