How did BBC News report a strike on terrorists in Nuseirat?

Early on the morning of June 6th the IDF announced that it had carried out a strike on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists hiding in an UNRWA school in the Nuseirat district of the Gaza Strip.

Soon afterwards, the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israeli strike on UN school in Gaza kills at least 20, locals say” and credited to Rushdi Abualouf and George Wright, neither of whom is on the ground in the Gaza Strip.

That report, therefore, is based on information provided by a variety of sources: [emphasis added]

“An Israeli air strike on a UN school packed with hundreds of displaced people in central Gaza has killed more than 20 people, local residents say. […]

Local journalists told the BBC that an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at classrooms on the top floor of the school in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

The Hamas media office said at least 27 people were killed and accused Israel of committing a “horrific massacre”. […]

Ismail al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas media office, rejected Israel’s claims that the UN school had hidden a Hamas command post. […]

Mr Thawabta rejected the IDF’s claims, saying: “The occupation uses lying to the public opinion through false fabricated stories to justify the brutal crime it conducted against dozens of displaced people.””

As the day went on, that article was amended several times. The version currently appearing online is headlined “Israeli strike on UN school in Gaza reportedly kills at least 35” and is credited to Rushdi Abualouf and David Gritten, with “additional reporting by George Wright in London”.

In paragraph eight of the current version, readers are told that:

“The BBC is working to verify the reports about the strike in Nuseirat camp.”

And:

“The BBC has been reviewing videos and has not yet seen conclusive evidence of civilian casualties at the scene of the strike. However, there is footage showing child casualties at al-Aqsa hospital.”

In the meantime, that latest version of the report also promotes information sourced from completely unidentified “local journalists”, from only partly named “local residents”, from the head of UNRWA (who is not in the Gaza Strip), and from two bodies run by the same terrorist organisation which was hiding its operatives among civilians at the site concerned: the “Hamas-run Government Media Office” (the director of which was already promoting false claims of ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’ on social media just hours after the incident)  and the “Hamas-run health ministry”.

“Israel’s military said it had “conducted a precise strike on a Hamas compound” in the school and killed many of the 20 to 30 fighters it believed were inside.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Government Media Office denied the claim and accused Israel of carrying out a “horrific massacre”.”

Readers are told that:

“Dead and wounded people were rushed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital, in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah, which has been overwhelmed since the Israeli military began a new ground operation against Hamas in central Gaza this week. […]

Residents initially said that more than 20 people were killed in the attack.

Later, an official at al-Aqsa hospital told a freelance journalist working for the BBC that it had received 40 bodies from the school.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 40 people were killed, including 14 children and nine women, and 74 others were injured. The same death toll was given by the director of the Hamas-run Government Media Office, Ismail al-Thawabta.”

Similar claims appear in another report on the same story, published later on June 6th. Credited to the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell and headlined “Witnesses tell of ‘unimaginable’ Gaza shelter air strike”, that article informs readers that:

“Israel’s military says it carried out a “precision, intelligence-based strike” to target between 20 to 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters who were using the school as a staging ground to plan and launch attacks.

However, 14 children and nine women were among those killed, the Hamas-run government media office says. Earlier, medics reported similar numbers to a local journalist working with the BBC.”

Once again, that “local journalist” is not named.

Yet another report on the same story was published on June 7th under the headline “US urges Israel to be transparent over Gaza school strike”. That report is credited to Matt Murphy and George Wright, with “additional reporting by Rushdi Abu Alouf in Istanbul and David Gritten in London”. Readers are told that:

“The Israelis “told us there were 20 to 30 militants they were targeting [and] they’re going to release the names of those they believe they’ve killed, those militants”, US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

“That is what they have said they would provide. We expect them to do that, as well as any other details that would shed light on this incident.””

The very next paragraph states:

“In a near-simultaneous news briefing, Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari gave the names of nine Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters he said had been killed in the strike. The Israeli military later said it had confirmed the deaths of eight more Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members in the strike, bringing the total to 17.”

Nine of the terrorists were identified on June 6th and eight more were identified on June 7th.

Nevertheless – and despite the fact that even the original version of this report refers to the first nine terrorists identified – the BBC’s report continues:

“In Washington, Mr Miller [US State Department spokesman] said the US has seen reports that 14 children were killed in the strike.

“If that is accurate that 14 children were killed, those aren’t terrorists,” he said.

“And so the government of Israel has said they are going to release more information about this strike… We expect them to be fully transparent in making that information public.”

And:

“The BBC is working to verify the details of the strike in Nuseirat camp. Reports on the exact number of dead have varied.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 40 people had been killed, including 14 children and nine women, and 74 others had been injured.”

On the morning of June 7th AP reported that:

“The [Al Aqsa] hospital initially reported that nine women and 14 children were among those killed in the strike on the school. The hospital morgue later amended those records to show that the dead included three women, nine children and 21 men. It was not immediately clear what caused the discrepancy. An Associated Press reporter had counted the bodies but was unable to look beneath the shrouds.”

Remarkably, as of the time of writing, none of the BBC’s three reports have been updated to include that information.

As we see, despite admitting that it has not yet been able to verify the information provided by the very terrorist organisation exploiting the UNRWA premises which were the location of the strike, the BBC was quite happy to promote its claims and narratives.

Equally notable is that while two of the BBC’s three reports promote statements from UNRWA officials, the BBC was apparently not interested in soliciting a response from that organisation concerning the highly pertinent question of why – once again – UNRWA was silent about the exploitation of its facilities for the purpose of terrorism prior to the strike. 

 

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3 Comments

  1. says: Barry

    The BBC is well known for their poor ranking in relationship to Israel reporting and do have concerns over where the BBC report got their information and omission of any Israeli point of view. However, in contrast to what most other media outlets published and portrayed, the BBC said they can’t confirm the number of dead. The Washington Post, the New York Times, the AP, CNN and others fully took the inaccurate and unsubstantiated view of over 275 dead and over 400 wounded. Those publications have been happy to say this repeatedly.

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