On Saturday the BBC reported that a “makeshift” hospital in what is supposed to be a civilian safe zone has been hit by the Sri Lankan army killing 91 Tamil civilians and injured another 87.

The Sri Lankan army has put the blame on the Tamil Tigers saying that they had carried out suicide attacks and insisted that they had stopped their heavy bombardment some days before.

It was doctors at the hospital who claimed that the Sri Lankan army had bombed the hospital. You would think they would know the difference between a suicide bomb and an artillery shell.

But in the interests of  the fair reporting standards that the BBC is so keen to tell us it upholds the reporter offers this word of warning:

Journalists are not allowed near the conflict zone, so the conflicting accounts cannot be independently verified.

I would point out to the BBC that during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s military action against Hamas in December and January, no such statement ever appeared on the BBC News website or TV broadcasts. The BBC, and its viewers, were asked to swallow whole reports from just one side of the conflict, coming through UNWRA which, in turn, received all their information directly from Hamas. This lead, for example,  to the misreporting by UNWRA head John Ging of the supposed attack on a UN school where 41 people were reported to have been killed. Later, Ging had to concede that no such incident had taken place and about a dozen people had been killed outside the school, the majority of whom were combatants.

But the BBC STILL REPORTS THIS INCIDENT AS IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. and adds a pathetic “Update” at the end:

In February 2009, the United Nations said that a clerical error had led it to report that Israeli mortars had struck a UN-run school in Jabaliya, Gaza, on 6 January killing about 40 people. Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Jerusalem, said that the Israeli Defense Force mortars fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself. He said that the UN “would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school”.

Some “clerical error”! It doesn’t even mention the fact that only 12, not 40 had been killed, and it only mentions obliquely the IDF investigation which actually names most of the fatalities and identifies them as know Hamas combatants.

Why does the BBC not just withdraw completely this lie. The report is still there with the headline “‘Stray mortar’ hit UN Gaza school” and a photograph of an injured child being carried from an ambulance, presumably to a hospital even though we now know that NO CHILDREN WERE INJURED IN THE SCHOOL.

So why does the BBC continue to post a lie or, to be generous, an erroneous report which appeared to have the authority of the UN and which the UN corrected later?  The UN report was so credible that, according to the BBC, even the IDF at first believed it and produced the “stray mortar” story. But:

The [Israeli] statement was made anonymously to the media because the investigation had not yet been made public by the military

So this wasn’t even the official IDF position at the time but suited the BBC’s biased viewpoint, so they printed it.

The BBC report continues:

The dropping of the defence that Hamas mortars had come from within the school compound may cause some embarrassment to Israel in what has been a high profile incident.

The initial “human shield” claim was made forcefully after the killings by the military, politicians and many supporters of Israel.

“Hamas cynically uses civilians as human shields,” the military said in its initial statement, and later it went as far as naming two well-known Hamas militants among those killed at the school.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called the incident “a very extreme example of how Hamas operates”.

It is not clear what credibility the change of position will be given by observers. 

The last sentence says it all really: the Israeli government was not to be believed. It was Israel who were the war criminals, Israel who breached every rule of warfare and Hamas who were  the victims. This is in marked contrast to the BBC’s Sri Lanka report where it emphasises that story cannot be verified.

The IDF has clearly shown that Hamas not only used Human Shield policies but operated in cynical violation and total disdain of international law throughout the conflict. Yet the BBC still sees fit to perpetuate its own misreporting and offer a dismal and ineffective rider.