(July 22, 2021 / JNS) The Associated Press’ photo essay “War’s trauma apparent in portraits of Gazan children,” published on Wednesday features the personal stories of a number of Gaza children traumatized by Hamas’s 11-day conflict with Israel in May. The essay is egregiously partisan and defamatory, and highly reminiscent of The New York Times’ “They Were Only Children” front-page item last month.
Like their colleagues at the Times, AP’s Aya Batrawy and Felipe Dana identify Israel as being virtually solely responsible for the children’s trauma, all but ignoring Hamas’s role in the tragedies: “Altogether, 66 children were killed in the fourth war on the Gaza Strip—most from precision-guided Israeli bombs, though in one incident Israel alleges a family was killed by Hamas rockets that fell short of their target.”
“Where when war erupts, there is no safe place,” the AP article states, providing no indication whatsoever that Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza fire at Israel from densely populated neighborhoods. Hamas also stores weaponry among civilians and houses its command offices in residential areas, a fact acknowledged by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.
Moreover, while Hamas has built hundreds of kilometers of well-fortified tunnels for its fighters, including under civilian homes, it has not provided any shelters for its civilian population. All of this information is highly relevant to a report on the lack of safe places for Gaza’s population, and yet AP omits it.
By citing “precision-guided Israeli bombs” while ignoring the Hamas sites that Israel was targeting when some of these children were killed, AP implies that Israel committed a heinous war crime: targeting children with precision bombs.
In addition, contrary to AP’s claim that “in one incident” Israel “alleges” a Hamas rocket was responsible for killing Gaza’s children, Israel has said that 680 misfired rockets launched by Gaza terrorists killed 10 children in at least two separate incidents, and has also pointed to additional incidents in which fatalities of minors likely were caused by misfired rockets. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center detailed casualties inflicted on May 10 by misfired rockets hitting the Al-Omari Mosque in Jabalia and the al-Masri home in Beit Hanoun.
The Meir Amit report also indicates additional cases in which misfired Palestinian rockets are suspected in minors’ deaths:
• Naghan Iyad Abd al-Fattah, 2, killed May 19 on Al-Barakah Street in Deir al-Barah, “apparently” by a failed launch; Palestinians were said to be investigating.
• Yaha Mazen Shehadeh Khalifa, 13, killed May 12 on Salah al-Din Street, “probably” by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad misfire.
• Buthaina Mahmoud Issa Obeid, 6, killed May 14, cause “unclear.”
Significantly, it’s not only Israel which “alleges” that some children were killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Defence for Children International–Palestine acknowledged two children were killed by “a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group” in the Al-Omari mosque incident.
Regarding the al-Masri incident, in which six children were killed, AP’s story states: “It’s not clear whether the rocket was fired by Israel or Hamas.” It’s worth noting that DCI-Palestine also acknowledges that a misfired Palestinian rocket was possibly at fault. According to the Meir Amit center, at the time of the incident, the Israel Defense Forces had not yet launched its operation, and therefore Israeli fire could not have been responsible for the deadly strike.
Like the Times story before it, the AP article also fails to acknowledge that some of the minors killed were members of terror organizations, such as 17-year-old Khaled al-Qanau, and Muhammad Suleiman, 15.
The wire service article and photo essay likewise ignores that many were killed because of their proximity to Hamas members. Lina Sharir, 15, was killed alongside her father Iyad, a Hamas commander, for example. Hala Hussein Rifi, 13, and Zaid Mohammad al-Talabani, 5, were killed alongside Hamas commander Wael Issa. And so on.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis has communicated with AP concerning these errors and shortcomings. Stay tuned for updates.
Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
This article was first published by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.
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