BBC reports on Tal al Sultan fire promote misinformation

On May 27th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Deadly explosion reported in Gaza refugee camp” which was credited to Thomas Mackintosh.

As has been the case in so much of the BBC’s reporting throughout the past eight months, in the rush to publish something about a breaking story, audiences were not provided with verified information about what had happened but instead were presented with different accounts – one sourced from a terrorist organisation – and left to make up their own minds as to which is credible. [emphasis added]

“The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says 50 people have been killed and scores injured in an explosion at a refugee camp near Rafah.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed carrying out an air strike targeting a Hamas compound in the area. It says it is reviewing the incident. […]

Hamas said an Israeli air strike had hit a camp for displaced Palestinians north-west of Rafah, away from recent military operations in a designated humanitarian safe zone.

It says women and children are among the dead.

The IDF confirmed it had targeted Hamas militants in the area and said it was aware of reports the strike had ignited a fire which harmed civilians.

It was reviewing the incident but said it had used precision weapons against legitimate targets.”

As more information emerged it became clear that “an Israeli air strike” had not “hit a camp” and that the location was not “in a designated humanitarian safe zone”.

That initial version of the BBC’s report also misled readers in relation to an ICJ order issued a few days earlier.

“Israel’s military offensive has continued in Rafah, despite the International Court of Justice ruling on Friday that it must halt.”

In addition, the report inaccurately told readers that an earlier Hamas rocket attack on central Israel had not caused any injuries.

“The rocket barrage highlights the threat Hamas still poses to people across Israel, although there were no reports of injuries.”

In the hours after the publication of that initial version of the report it was amended several times, with the version currently appearing online credited to Thomas Mackintosh and David Gritten and headlined “Dozens reported killed in Israeli strike on Rafah”.

Remarkably, that latest version of the report opens with an inaccurate portrayal of what happened.

“At least 45 people have been killed, including women and children, in an Israeli air strike on a camp for displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the Hamas-run health ministry says.”

The report goes on to promote – and link to – disinformation from the PRCS:

“The Palestinian Red Crescent said Sunday’s air strike targeted tents for displaced people near a UN facility in Tal al-Sultan, about 2km (1.2 miles) north-west of the centre of Rafah.”

Later, readers find another reference to a “strike on the camp” which did not take place:

“The Hamas-run health ministry said on Monday afternoon that at least 45 people, including 23 women, children and elderly, had been killed in the strike on the camp.”

This version of the report also promotes Hamas’ inaccurate claim that the location of the incident was in a declared safe zone even though that claim had already been refuted.

“The head of the Hamas-run government media office, Ismail al-Thawabta, said the camp was away from recent military action and that the IDF had “called on citizens and displaced persons to go to these safe zones”.

However, the IDF said: “The strike did not occur in the humanitarian area in al-Mawasi, to which the IDF has encouraged civilians to evacuate.”

Mackintosh and Gritten’s report again inaccurately claims that no-one was injured in the earlier Hamas rocket attacks on central Israel.

“The barrage highlighted the threat Hamas still poses to people across Israel, although there were no reports of injuries.”

It also promotes misinformation concerning the ICJ’s order:

“Israeli military operations have continued in Rafah despite a ruling on Friday by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”

In addition to that written report, the BBC News website published a filmed report by Lucy Williamson titled “At the scene of deadly strike in Rafah”. Like the title, the synopsis to that report misleads BBC audiences by claiming that the civilians who died in the tragic incident were ‘killed by a strike’.

“At least 45 people were killed by an [sic] strike in Rafah on Sunday, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hundreds more were treated for severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the strike a “tragic mishap”, amid growing international condemnation of the blast.

The Israeli army said it had been targeting two senior Hamas leaders.

The BBC’s middle east correspondent Lucy Williamson reports on the strike and its aftermath.”

Williamson’s typically dramatic commentary includes the inaccurate claim that “Israel said a top Hamas commander was hiding among thousands of displaced families…”.

The following day the BBC News website published a report by Paul Adams and Matt Murphy under the headline “Netanyahu vows to continue war amid air strike condemnation”.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war against Hamas amid international condemnation of an air strike that killed scores of Palestinians in Rafah on Sunday. […]

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday, at Algeria’s request, to discuss the Rafah strike.

In a statement on Monday, UN secretary general António Guterres said the strike had “killed scores of innocent civilians who were only seeking shelter from this deadly conflict”. […]

International organisations have lined up to condemn the strike, with the EU insisting that Israel respect a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last week to halt strikes on Rafah. The bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, called Sunday’s strike “horrifying”.”

That report also promotes disinformation from NGOs:

“IDF officials said the attack on Rafah had killed two senior Hamas commanders, and that it was investigating the deaths of civilians in the area.

But the Palestinian Red Crescent said the air strike had targeted tents for displaced people near a UN facility in Tal al-Sultan, about 2km (1.2 miles) north-west of the centre of Rafah. […]

MSF rejected Israeli reports that the strike had been precise, saying the “attack on a populated camp in a so-called ‘safe zone’ in Rafah shows the complete disregard for the lives of civilians in Gaza”.”

Remarkably, none of those three BBC News website reports have been updated to inform audiences of the findings to date of the investigation into the incident and to remove the disinformation promoted by Hamas and others. While that investigation is still ongoing, its findings so far clarify that the location concerned was not “in a so-called safe zone” and that the IDF did not conduct an air strike which “targeted tents”.

“The Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday that a hidden store of weapons may have been the actual cause of a deadly blaze in southern Gaza’s Rafah, and that an airstrike that targeted an adjacent area had used small munitions that would not ignite such a fire on their own.

The military suspects that the munitions or some other combustible substance it was unaware of caused a secondary explosion and a fire to spread in a complex housing displaced Gazans in Rafah, killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, following an airstrike targeting two top Hamas terrorists in the area.”

If anyone thought that the BBC had learned something from the wide criticism of its hasty and irresponsible reporting on the explosion at al Ahli hospital in October of last year or that all the meetings between BBC executives and community groups in the UK had perhaps prompted some self-reckoning, they were obviously sorely mistaken.

As we see, the BBC is quite happy for a terrorist organisation’s disinformation about “an Israeli air strike on a camp for displaced Palestinians” that never happened to remain online as “permanent public record“, just like its reporting from 22 years ago about a “massacre” in Jenin. 

Related Articles:




More from Hadar Sela
No BBC reporting on preparations for upcoming Gaza border stunt
BBC audiences so far remain unaware of plans for tyre burning on...
Read More
Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. says: Sid

    The BBC also takes its feed from the International Press Agency Reuters who report first followed by the BBC.
    It is time to direct attention to these News Agencies and their staff for disseminating inaccurate reports that at a press of the button immediately circulate worldwide and are never properly challenged. In Gaza all journalists are Hamas approved including Aljazeera and Reuters -put out a report Hamas/PIJ dont like and you will end up being killed.
    So truth is hidden and the media know it but are only prepared to challenge Israel/Jews – it is like the Holocaust – the media did not believe the Jews, so the governments remained silent. Now we have the reverse and the media believe the anti Semitic enemies

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

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