BBC apologizes after false claim IDF targeting medical staff, Arabic speakers in Gaza

In latest controversy, broadcaster says it misread report of Israeli troops entering Gaza hospital – where IDF says Hamas had HQ – accompanied by medical teams and Arabic speakers

Protesters hold placards and Israeli flags outside the headquarters of the BBC in London on October 16, 2023, to appeal to the corporation to call Hamas 'terrorists.' (Daniel Leal / AFP)
Protesters hold placards and Israeli flags outside the headquarters of the BBC in London on October 16, 2023, to appeal to the corporation to call Hamas 'terrorists.' (Daniel Leal / AFP)

The BBC was forced to apologize on Wednesday after one of its presenters said that Israel Defense Forces soldiers who had entered Shifa Hospital in Gaza “were targeting people including medical teams and Arab speakers.”

Citing a Reuters news report, the presenter twice reiterated that soldiers were targeting medical teams and Arab speakers.

In fact, the original Reuters report quoted an IDF statement that upon entering Gaza’s largest hospital — which Israel says houses a Hamas command center — specially trained forces were accompanied by “medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers [who] are on the ground to ensure that [medical] supplies reach those in need.”

Following a wave of criticism, the BBC apologized for the error on air.

“This was incorrect and misquoted a Reuters report,” an anchor for the UK broadcaster later said. “What we should have said is that IDF forces included medical staff and Arabic speakers for this operation.”

“We apologize for this error which fell below our usual editorial standards. The correct version of events was broadcast minutes later,” the BBC said.

Earlier, the Board of Deputies of British Jews slammed the broadcaster for the mistake.

“At best this shows a staggering lack of care when reporting on highly volatile situations, which can have a knock-on effect all over the world, including in Britain where antisemitic attacks have risen 500% since October 7th,” the Board said in a statement.

After the apology, the Board noted that it still intended on “following this up at the highest levels of the Corporation. This sort of misreporting is unacceptable from our national broadcaster.”

The BBC has come under attack for its coverage of the war between Israel and the Hamas terror organization, which former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett alleged was “lacking moral clarity.”

In particular, the broadcaster was slammed for its rush to report unverified and later-refuted claims that an Israeli airstrike was responsible for a deadly explosion at Gaza’s Al-Ahli Hospital on October 17.

Initial reports citing only Hamas said hundreds of people were killed in the incident. Israel and the US later said they had clear evidence the blast was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket that fell short in the hospital’s parking lot. Analysts have also assessed the the rocket likely killed dozens, and not some 500 as Hamas claimed.

The BBC has also steadfastly refused to call Hamas a terrorist group or its members terrorists — a policy it has in common with many major international news organizations.

The UK national broadcaster has been repeatedly lampooned by top Israeli satirical show “Eretz Nehederet,” most recently with a skit Tuesday just hours before the false claim was made.

Most Popular
read more: