NY Times admits its coverage of Gaza hospital blast relied too heavily on Hamas claims

Editorial note says staff left readers with ‘incorrect impression,’ should have been more careful in initial presentation of information and in explaining what could be verified

The New York Times, which repeatedly and prominently featured Hamas’s claim that the blast last week at Gaza City’s al-Ahli Baptist Hospital was caused by an Israeli airstrike, published an editors’ note Monday acknowledging that its coverage should have been more journalistically rigorous.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza immediately blamed last Tuesday’s explosion on an Israeli airstrike amid a war that erupted when the Palestinian terror group killed over 1,400 people in Israel in a devastating onslaught. Hamas provided no evidence to back up the false claim, or for its claim that hundreds had been killed.

In the ensuing hours, Israel produced evidence showing the explosion was caused by a failed rocket launch from Gaza at Israel by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, an assessment endorsed by the United States, which has said it has its own data that supports it. Islamic Jihad denies the accusation.

While the New York Times story was updated as time went on, “editors should have taken more care with the initial presentation, and been more explicit about what information could be verified,” the editors’ note read.

The initial reports “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified,” it said. “The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.”

Earlier Monday, the newspaper said the terror group had not provided, or even described, any evidence to back up its accusation that the explosion was caused by an Israeli strike.

A sign for The New York Times hangs above the entrance to its building, on May 6, 2021 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal has backed Israel’s version of events, as have assessments by CNN and the Associated Press.

The White House said that an intelligence assessment showed Israel was not responsible and US President Joe Biden said that the blast “appears as though it was done by the other team.”

The Israeli military presented an intercepted conversation between Hamas officials saying the explosion was caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad projectile that fell short inside Gaza, and provided images showing that the parking lot where the blast occurred didn’t have a crater in the ground and no structural damage had been dealt to nearby buildings — both of which would typically have been left by an airstrike.

The US intelligence community believes that 100-300 people were killed at the Al-Ahli Hospital, while a European official put the toll at 50 or less.

Hamas health authorities swiftly put the death toll at 500, a number that was widely reported worldwide despite the fact that the terror group’s figure could not be independently verified.

In Britain, the BBC and other local outlets have been criticized by government lawmakers for rushing to report the Hamas version of events.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons last week, “We don’t treat what comes out of the Kremlin as the gospel truth, we should not do the same with Hamas.”

On October 7, in a shock onslaught, Hamas fired a barrage of thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities while sending over 2,500 gunmen through the border from the Gaza Strip. Terrorists rampaged murderously through southern regions, slaughtering men, women and children and abducting at least 212 people of all ages and dragging them to Gaza as captives. In the weeks since, Hamas has continued to rain rockets on southern and central Israel, causing more deaths.

Israel declared its intention to destroy Hamas, beginning with intensive strikes on terror infrastructure in Gaza while urging residents of northern Gaza to evacuate ahead of an expected ground offensive. The Hamas-controlled health ministry reports over 5,000 people have been killed. The figures issued by the terror group, widely cited in international media, cannot be independently verified and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, and the victims of the blast at the Gaza City hospital.

Most Popular
read more: