Guesswork in Gaza (June 14, 2006)

By Mike Fegelman

June 14, 2006

Guesswork in Gaza

June 14, 2006

Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:


When seven Palestinians died in a June 9 explosion on a Gaza beach, many Canadian media unquestioningly reported Palestinian claims that Israeli shelling was the cause, despite the absence of supporting evidence. Yet several days later, an analysis of the evidence suggests that Palestinian munitions may have been behind the explosion.

For example: All of the shells Israel fired in that time period landed over 10 minutes before the deadly blast. Shrapnel removed from wounded Palestinians in Israeli hospitals does not match artillery shells used by Israel. And images of the Gaza blast scene suggest the explosion came from below rather than from above — consistent with Israeli intelligence reports that Hamas may have mined the beach to prevent Israeli commandos from landing there. Finally, in contrast with the usual Palestinian practice of displaying Israeli munitions to reporters, in this instance Palestinians rapidly removed evidence from the scene while refusing to cooperate with Israeli investigators.

Reconstructing Evidence

As The Second Draft documents, Palestinians have a history of falsely implicating Israel. A classic example of this was Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat’s false claim that over 500 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s 2002 operation to root out terrorists in Jenin, which a later CNN interview exposed as false (footage courtesy of Global TV’s “Jenin: Massacring Truth“).

As CBC’s Iris Makler reported on June 13, Palestinians have mounted a full-scale public relations campaign in this instance too, including a beach-front re-enactment of the event starring one of the victims. And again Palestinians have falsified the record: even though the Israeli navy was not engaged in shelling at the time, Palestinian TV grafted earlier footage of Israeli naval vessels to footage of the beach victims in order to create the impression that an Israeli naval barrage caused the deaths. Click below to see the footage courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch.

Presenting the Palestinian Narrative

Despite the absence of conclusive evidence, many Canadian media outlets presented the Palestinian narrative as fact. One example that inadvertently resembled the doctored Palestinian TV version appeared in the Vancouver Sun on June 10. Using photos the Israeli military released online and to the media an hour prior to the Gaza deaths, the Sun created its own photographic timeline of events. The newspaper combined a photo of an injured Palestinian girl with photos of an Israeli naval gunboat firing shells and shells landing on a beach, and printed them together as if the series of photos documented the actual event.


In fact, the Israeli Navy was not engaged in shelling at the time. But the Sun repeated the claim in a timeline of events included with the photos, labeled “Deadly Sequence,” that claimed an Israeli gunboat did in fact fire the lethal shell.

A senior editor at the Sun told HonestReporting Canada that the newspaper acted correctly, given the photos and accompanying information provided by wire services at the time. The Sun has also printed a more recent article about the Israeli military’s denial of responsibility. But even with the best of intentions, the Sun, like many other media, used incomplete information to present an unfair and inaccurate version of these tragic events.  


Contact Vancouver Sun at

Why Israel Targets Rocket Cells

58 years after achieving independence, Israel remains the target of deadly Arab attacks in the form of shootings, stabbings, suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Since 2001, about 5,000 Palestinian rockets have landed on Israel, terrifying local populations, threatening infrastructure and causing property damage. And a special BBC report entitled “Gaza’s rocket threat to Israel” notes that “According to the Israeli army, Qassams killed eight people within Israel between June 2004 and March 2006, including three children aged four or under.”

Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, Palestinians have escalated the threat by firing Katyushas — military-grade missiles that have greater accuracy, range and firepower — and firing from even closer proximity to Israel than they previously could.

Israel continues to be pounded by missiles — over 100 since the weekend, wounding at least two Israelis and causing damage to a number of buildings.

Making matters worse, Palestinian rocket crews typically fire at Israel from populated civilian areas. This cynical exploitation of civilians as a shield against Israeli countermeasures creates a tragic situation in which civilians are bound to get hurt.

How You Can Make a Difference


Make sure your local media report the reason for Israeli military actions against rocket crews. Explain that Israel is defending its citizens from thousands of rockets that continue to land in the country, and that it is the Palestinian tactic of firing from civilian areas that leads to tragic consequences.


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  • Forward a copy of your letter to action@honestreporting




    Thank you for your ongoing commitment to fair and accurate
media coverage of Israel and the Middle East


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