Israel lodges formal complaint over BBC coverage of Gaza violence

Foreign Ministry spokesman accuses British broadcaster of deliberate lies after headline omits mention of Palestinian rocket fire toward Israel

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture of a headline and article on the BBC homepage which prompted a complaint from Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, August 9, 2018. (Twitter)
Screen capture of a headline and article on the BBC homepage which prompted a complaint from Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, August 9, 2018. (Twitter)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday morning accused the BBC of deliberately lying about the recent violence in Gaza and southern Israel, demanding it change a headline that said Israel killed a pregnant woman and her child in Gaza, but omitted the Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli civilians that preceded Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes.

Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said he asked Israel’s embassy in London to file a written complaint against the broadcaster.

Replying to a tweet linking to a BBC article entitled, “Israeli air strikes ‘kill pregnant woman and baby,’” Nahshon replied by saying that this headline was “deliberately misleading!!! Israel reacted following the launching of over 100 rockets at Southern Israel, targeting and injuring civilians. Change it immediately!!!”

Nearly an hour later, the Israeli diplomat sent out another tweet:

A short while after the tweet, the BBC slightly changed the headline of the piece, although there was no indication that this was due to the protest. At time of publication it read: “Gaza air strikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel.”

A spokesperson from the embassy in London wrote to the BBC, saying that the “headline is back-to-front.”

“Hamas rockets struck Israel before Israel responded with air strikes. Therefore, I would ask for the headline to be corrected according to the order in which the events occurred,” he wrote.

The information the BBC headline is referring to is based on a quote from officials in Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry, which said that Israeli strikes killed a pregnant woman and her one-year-old daughter in central Gaza’s Jafarawi area.

Nahshon did not reply to reporters’ questions asking whether he was disputing the BBC article’s facts or merely the omission of the rocket fire from Gaza on Israel, which triggered Israel’s strikes on the coastal enclave.

More than 150 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel since Wednesday night. Most projectiles hit open areas, but seven people were injured, including one seriously. In response to these attacks, the Israel army struck more than 140 Hamas targets in Gaza overnight, according to its spokesperson.

Stuart Winer and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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