BBC insists: UN wrong, Israel killed Gaza baby

By Marcus Dysch, March 14, 2013
Jihad al-Masharawi, a BBC correspondent in Gaza, cries over his dead son (Photo: Reuters)

Jihad al-Masharawi, a BBC correspondent in Gaza, cries over his dead son (Photo: Reuters)

The BBC has contested the findings of a United Nations report into an explosion that killed the baby son of one of the corporation’s correspondents.

Jihad Mashhrawi’s 11-month-old son Omar was killed after Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defence in Gaza in November last year.

At the time, it was widely claimed that the explosion was caused by an Israeli rocket hitting a residential area. But the UN Human Rights Committee’s advance version of its report into the conflict, published last week, said the incident was the result of “what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel”.

A picture of Mr Mashhrawi cradling his dead son became one of the most iconic images from the eight-day conflict. Mr Mashhrawi this week dismissed the UN findings as “rubbish” and said Hamas would “usually apologise” to the family if it was responsible.

In a piece published on the BBC website on November 26 last year, Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison dismissed the possibility of the explosion having been caused by a Hamas rocket, saying it was “most likely” Omar had been killed by an Israeli strike.

Jon Donnison

Jon Donnison

Despite the UN findings, Mr Donnison stuck to that conclusion this week, writing that Israeli military officials had “privately briefed journalists that they had been targeting a militant who was in the building” where Omar was killed, and that the Israelis had reported no rockets being fired from Gaza by Hamas at that time.

Hadar Sela, of monitoring site BBC Watch, attacked the corporation’s continued defence of its original claims. She said: “The BBC has still not acknowledged that the real issue is not what type of projectile caused the death of Omar Mashhrawi but that the BBC energetically promoted an unverified version of events which blamed Israel, while knowing full well that it did not have the solid evidence to back up its claims.”

An Israeli military spokesman said it was not clear what had happened in the early stages of the conflict but that missiles fired by Palestinian terrorists did often fall on Gaza civilians.

The week before Omar’s death, Mr Donnison apologised for sending a tweet which claimed a picture showing a child on a hospital trolley was of a Palestinian victim in Gaza, but was in fact an old image from the Syrian civil war.

Last updated: 3:45pm, March 14 2013