The New York Times on Monday acknowledged that its reporting on the Oct. 17 hospital blast in Gaza City “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified.”
Hamas health authorities claimed that day that an explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital killed 471 Palestinians. The terrorist group immediately blamed Israel, accusing the Israel Defense Forces of deliberately striking the hospital.
In response to Hamas’s accusations, violence erupted around the region, as angry protesters gathered in front of Israeli diplomatic missions.
Israel has presented conclusive evidence that a faulty Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket struck near the hospital. No Israeli air force, ground or naval attacks were carried out in that area at the time of the blast, stated IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
U.S., French and Canadian intelligence services have confirmed that Israel was not responsible for the explosion.
In addition, according to European intelligence officials cited by the Agence France-Presse, Hamas massively inflated the death toll. “There weren’t 200 or even 500 deaths. More likely between 10 and 50,” an anonymous source told the news agency.
On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller slammed journalists for accepting claims by Hamas officials. “I saw a number of reports … that took Hamas’s word at face value—the word of a terrorist organization,” Miller said.
“I don’t mind people treating our claims skeptically. Everyone has a right to do that. We stand up here every day and defend them, but I would hope that everyone who is watching what’s happening would not take claims from a terrorist organization at face value,” added the spokesman.
In an Oct. 18 article, the HonestReporting media watchdog group charged the Grey Lady with committing a “journalistic crime.”
“Without waiting for a single fact to be established—other than a hospital had been hit—the NYT jumped at the opportunity to lay the blame at Israel’s door, including by parroting the claim in its headline that 500 people had died without even bothering to mention that Hamas controls the Palestinian Health Ministry,” HonestReporting wrote.
On Monday, the Times conceded that “given the sensitive nature of the news during a widening conflict, and the prominent promotion it received, Times editors should have taken more care with the initial presentation, and been more explicit about what information could be verified.
“Newsroom leaders continue to examine procedures around the biggest breaking news events—including for the use of the largest headlines in the digital report—to determine what additional safeguards may be warranted,” added the editors’ note.
Also on Monday, the BBC announced it would stop describing Hamas as a “militant” group and instead refer to the rulers of the Gaza Strip as “a terrorist organization proscribed by the U.K. government.”
The BBC has adamantly refused to call Hamas terrorists “terrorists,” even after the Islamist group’s murder of more than 1,400 persons in Israel, most of them civilians, and kidnapping of some 200 others, including dozens of foreign nationals.
The policy change was agreed on during a meeting between members of Britain’s Board of Jewish Deputies and BBC director-general Tim Davie.
Jewish leaders expressed “outrage” at the BBC’s coverage of the explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital.