BBC criticised after reporter says Israel was responsible for Gaza hospital blast

The IDF has presented evidence showing the blast was caused by a misfired rocket from Palestinian Islamic Jihad


The BBC has been criticised after a reporter blamed Israel for a deadly rocket blast on a Gaza hospital.

The journalist blamed Israel for the explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza live on BBC News on Tuesday.

Reporting the attack just after 8pm on BBC News, he said: “It’s hard to see what else this could be really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli airstrike or several airstrikes.” 

However, the IDF said the blast was caused by a misfired rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group and released imagery and communications intercepts aimed at supporting their case.

Meanwhile, Hamas claimed an Israeli air strike led to the blast, with Gaza health officials saying it killed at least 500 people.

Lt Col Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the IDF, hit out at the BBC over their coverage of the incident.

Asked on BBC Radio Four Today Programme if he was willing to submit the IDF’s evidence to an independent body for investigation, he said: “That’s a ridiculous question. I just wanted to point out that when Hamas says something, you quote them endlessly and no evidence is required.

“However, when Israel comes forward and says something, you ask, ‘where’s the evidence’?”

The incident is among a string of events when the BBC and its journalists have refused to refer to Hamas as a terrorist organisation whilst reporting the groups attack on Israel. 

Six reporters have also been placed under investigation over activity on social media platforms that appeared to endorse or support activities against Israel attributed to Hamas.

Meanwhile, a blog by veteran broadcaster John Simpson defending the BBC's position on Hamas upset several Jewish staff members after it referenced the Nazis.

The 600-word post, which explains why the BBC stops short of calling Hamas terrorists, included a reference to how the BBC broadcaster referenced the Nazis during the Second World War.

The BBC's world affairs editor wrote in the blog: “It's always been like this in the BBC. During World War Two, BBC broadcasters were expressly told not to call the Nazis evil or wicked, even though we could and did call them 'the enemy'. 

“'Above all,' said a BBC document about all this, 'there must be no room for ranting.' Our tone had to be calm and collected."

Grant Shapps, the UK’s first Jewish Defence Secretary, was left unimpressed by the reference. 

He said: “John Simpson, who’s a journalist who I hugely have always admired, must know as well as anyone else does that when you start to cite the Nazis in any argument you’ve basically lost it.

“Parliament has defined them as a terrorist organisation, Ofcom have confirmed that the BBC is wrong to claim that Ofcom won’t let them call them terrorists. I think it’s time for the BBC to move on.”

Meanwhile on Monday, the BBC branded an attack who shot dead Swedish football supporters as a terror incident. 

The shooting took place at around 7:15pm on October 16 in the Place Sainctelette district of Brussels. 

The gunman suspected of the terrorist attack later died on Tuesday after being shot by police in a cafe.

He identified himself as a member of Islamic State and claimed responsibility for the attack in a video posted online. 

When reporting the incident on Monday, the BBC headlined a story on its website: "Brussels shooting: Suspect at large after two Swedes killed in terror attack."

However, according to the Telegraph, minutes after it was published, the headline was amended to read: "Brussels shooting: Two Swedes killed and suspect still at large."

Separately, the publication also uncovered 20 instances of the BBC referring to individuals or groups as terrorists in recent years.

It comes after media regulator Ofcom dismissed a complaint from the Board of Deputies urging them to investigate the BBC over their coverage of the Hamas terror attack. 

In a letter to the regulator, lawyers for the Board argue that the BBC had failed to comply with its own editorial guidelines and included a list of 50 examples where the broadcaster has used "the language of 'terrorism' in recent times".

The media regulator also suspended its director of online safety supervision after she appeared to share anti-Israeli messages on social media. 

Fadzai Madzingira is being investigated by the regulator after she published a statement on her Instagram account describing Israel as an apartheid state. 

The BBC said, under its editorial guidelines, it does not use the word "terrorist" but attributes it and makes it clear that Hamas is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK Government.

A statement from the BBC board, after its regular monthly meeting, said: "No one who has watched or listened to harrowing reports over the last 10 days could be left in any doubt about the horror brought about by Hamas's attack on defenseless civilians in Israel.

"As this war continues, with so many deaths of innocent civilians in both Israel and Gaza, the BBC will no doubt continue to come under scrutiny about the way in which we cover it - that is to be expected and also welcomed. The BBC is listening.

"We believe that our editorial guidelines serve us well, and continue to serve us well in difficult circumstances; we do periodically review them as a matter of course, and when we do so at our next planned review in the spring, we will consult and debate these issues just as we always do."

Explaining the Brussels headline, a spokesman added: "This was a mistake - the headline should have attributed the words [terror attack], so it was swiftly changed."

Commenting on the hospital headline, it said: “This was a mistake - the headline should have attributed the words, so it was swiftly changed."

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