BBC apologizes for report accusing IDF of ‘summary executions’ in the Gaza Strip

UK public broadcaster says that despite attributing claim to Hamas and including Israeli response, it ‘had not made sufficient effort to seek corroborating evidence’

IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in Gaza in a handout image published January 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The BBC news network apologized over the weekend for a report late last month on its radio station in which it accused Israel Defense Forces troops of executing Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

In a report that ran overnight on December 24, the BBC said, it ran a story about Hamas accusing the IDF of “carrying out summary executions in the Gaza Strip.”

A statement from the BBC issued on Friday, almost two weeks after the initial report, said that “although the accusations were attributed and our story contained a response from the Israeli military saying they were unaware of the incident and that Hamas was a terrorist organisation that did not value truth, we had not made sufficient effort to seek corroborating evidence to justify reporting the Hamas claim. We apologise for this mistake.”

According to Deadline, the BBC report appeared to have been based on an AFP article from December 23, which stated that Hamas claimed in a statement to have gathered testimonies showing “the Israeli army had carried out the summary execution of 137 Palestinian civilians” in the northern Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, since the start of Israel’s ground offensive on October 7.

The article noted that the claims could not be independently verified, and that the IDF said it was “currently unaware” of any such incidents and that it was “at war with the Hamas terrorist organization who has proven that they do not value truth or accuracy.”

The military said last week that it was investigating an incident in which a Palestinian detainee was shot dead in Gaza by a soldier who was guarding him, but there has been no evidence to support any of Hamas’s claims about mass executions by ground troops in the Strip.

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, the UK’s public broadcaster, has had to issue several apologies over its reporting of the Israel-Hamas war since the start of conflict on October 7.

In mid-November, it apologized after one of its presenters said and then repeated that IDF soldiers who had entered Shifa Hospital in Gaza “were targeting people including 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 housed 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.”

The broadcaster was also slammed for its rush to report unverified and later-disproved claims that an Israeli airstrike was responsible for a deadly explosion at Gaza’s Al-Ahli Hospital on October 17. The BBC subsequently apologized for that coverage as well, saying it had been too swift to assign blame.

The TV network has also faced widespread criticism, including from the British government, for refusing to call Hamas a terrorist group or its members terrorists — a policy it has in common with many major international news organizations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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