Here’s the scare headline accompanying a Guardian report by Harriet Sherwood and Peter Beaumont on July 20th:
The article centers on a few recent battles in Gaza, including a large anti-terror operation in the northern city of Shejaiya.
Regarding Shejaiya, we are told the following:
All morning, terrified people ran from their homes, some barefoot and nearly all empty-handed. Others crowded on the backs of trucks or rode on the bonnets of cars in a desperate attempt to flee. Sky News reported that some had described a “massacre” in Shujai’iya. Witnesses reported hearing small arms fire inside Gaza, suggesting gun battles on the streets. Heavy shelling continued from the air and sea.
Bodies were pulled from rubble amid massive destruction of buildings in the neighbourhood. Masked gunmen were on the streets.
Late on Saturday evening, Israeli forces hit eastern areas of Gaza City with the heaviest bombardment yet of the 13-day war. The assault was most intense in the direction of Shujai’iya, where an orange glow of flames lit up the sky. At one stage, artillery and mortar rounds were hitting the outskirts of the city every five seconds. Later in the night jets flew low passes over the coast.
The Guardian saw families squeezing into the back of what few vehicles were available as streets further east were pounded by artillery fire.
Columns of people, many of them too scared, angry and shocked to speak, approached down the main road to the east and from side streets even as small arms fire was audible in the distance.
One of those fleeing was Sabreen Hattad, 34, with her three children. “The Israeli shells were hitting the house. We stayed the night because we were so scared but about six in the morning we decided to escape,” she said.
“But where are we supposed to go? The ambulances could not enter and so we ran under shell fire.”
Three other men pass by in a hurry clutching bedding in their arms. Asked what they had seen they would only answer: “Death and horror.”
Many of those escaping Shujai’iya made for Gaza’s central Shifa hospital, which was engulfed by chaotic scenes and ambulances ferrying the dead came in a steady steam, among them a local TV cameraman, Khaled Hamad, killed during the overnight offensive, wheeled out wrapped in a bloody plastic shroud.
Those who had fled congregated in corridors, on stairs and in the hospital car park. Staff put mattresses on floors to accommodate the injured, while some patients were being evacuated.
Aish Ijla, 38, whose leg was broken by shrapnel, said: “We live very close to the border. When the shells started we couldn’t leave the house. It is two storeys. The shells were hitting the upper floor so we all moved downstairs. There were 30 of us in the house. Then the shrapnel started hitting the door.
“It was quiet for a moment and we decided to run. But as we were on the road a shell landed near me, breaking my leg. I told the family to go on with out me and carried on going for a little bit and stopping then going on. Eventually an ambulance reached me after two hours.”
An accompanying article by Sherwood and Beaumont included this about Shujai’iya:
Late on Saturday evening, Israeli forces hit eastern areas of Gaza City with the heaviest bombardment yet of the 13-day war. The assault was most intense in the direction of the Shujai’iya neighbourhood, where a constant orange glow of flames lit up the sky.
As the assault continued into Sunday morning, Israel disclosed that four of its soldiers had been killed in the ground offensive.
At one stage, artillery and mortar rounds were hitting the outskirts of the city every five seconds. Later in the night, jets flew low passes over the coast.
As Sunday dawned, a thin pall of smoke hung over the seafront while tank fire echoed through deserted streets.
Large numbers of residents of the areas under attack fled the outskirts for Gaza’s city centre, while residents called radio stations pleading for evacuation.
In total, the Guardian provided 625 words to the battle in Shuja’iya, and failed to include even a word about the reason for the military assault, despite the fact that Israeli officials were quick to post the following information:
This civilian neighborhood in Gaza is home to extensive Hamas infrastructure. In only 13 days, Hamas has fired over 140 rockets from this neighborhood into Israel.
IDF soldiers have found 10 openings to terror tunnels in Shuja’iya. These tunnels are used for infiltrating Israel, smuggling weapons, and launching rockets at Israeli civilians.
The IDF warned civilians in Shuja’iya to evacuate the area many days before striking the terror infrastructure within it. Dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages are just some of the many actions the IDF has been taking to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.
Hamas knows that Israel is reluctant to attack areas with many civilians. The terrorist organization fights from within civilian population and uses them as human shields.
Hamas ordered the residents of Shuja’iya to ignore the IDF’s warning and stay in the neighborhood. By doing so, Hamas put them in the line of fire.
Despite the fact that many of the residents ignored warnings and didn’t leave the neighborhood, the IDF continued to operate in the most precise and surgical way possible, targeting only terrorists and their infrastructure.
The IDF agreed to the Red Cross’ request for a two-hour humanitarian window in Shuja’iya. This humanitarian window was opened despite the threats emanating from the neighborhood, including continuous Hamas rocket fire at Israel.
Hamas broke the humanitarian window when firing at Israel during the two-hour period. Still, the IDF agreed to the Red Cross appeal to extend the Humanitarian widow by another hour.
In light of the selective reporting and unsubstantiated accusations of massacres, you should recall that for two weeks in April of 2002, the Guardian ran wild tales of an Israeli massacre in the West Bank city of Jenin — a massacre that didn’t happened.
As Harry’s Place wrote in 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the non-massacre:
On the heels of a thirty-day Palestinian suicide bombing campaign in Israeli cities which included thirteen deadly attacks (imagine thirteen 7/7’s in one month), Israel embarked on a military offensive in the West Bank. The fiercest fighting in this offensive occurred in the refugee camp just outside the West Bank town of Jenin, the launching point for 30 Palestinian suicide bombers in the year and half previous (seven were caught before they could blow themselves up; the other 23 succeeded in carrying out their attacks). In this battle, which lasted less than a week, 23 Israeli soldiers were killed as well as 52 Palestinians, of whom at most 14 were civilians (there is some marginal dispute about that last figure).
[Seumas] Milne referred to ‘hundreds’ killed, ‘evidence of atrocities,’ and ‘state terror.’ Not to be outdone, Suzanne Goldenberg reported from Jenin’s ‘lunar landscape’ of ‘a silent wasteland, permeated with the stench of rotting corpses and cordite.’ She found ‘convincing accounts’ of summary executions, though let’s be honest and concede that it’s not generally difficult to convince Goldenberg of Israeli villainy. In the next day’s report from Jenin, a frustrated Goldenberg reported that the morgue in Jenin had ‘just 16 bodies’ after ‘only two bodies [were] plucked from the wreckage.’ This didn’t cause her to doubt for a moment that there were hundreds more buried beneath or to hesitate in reporting from a Palestinian source that bodies may have been transported ‘to a special zone in Israel.’ Brian Whitaker and Chris McGreal weighed in with their own equally tendentious and equally flawed reporting the following week.
Only on the tenth consecutive day of breathless Jenin Massacre reporting did Peter Beaumont report on detailed Israeli accounts refuting the massacre accusations, though predictably this was presented as part of an Israeli PR campaign rather than as conclusive proof. Two days later, Beaumont conceded that there hadn’t after all technically really actually been a massacre but then proceeded to repeat a handful of falsities as fact all over again. Without a doubt, though, the most memorable article the Guardian published on Jenin was its April 17 leader ‘The Battle for the Truth.’ The high dudgeon prose included the following sentences: ‘Jenin camp looks like the scene of a crime’; ‘Jenin smells like a crime’; ‘Jenin feels like a crime’; ‘Jenin already has that aura of infamy that attaches to a crime of especial notoriety’; and, unforgettably, the assertion that Israel’s actions in Jenin were ‘every bit as repellent’ as the 9/11 attacks in New York only seven months earlier.
No correction or retraction has ever been printed for this infamous editorial.
On the contrary, though mounting evidence emerged that the whole massacre calumny was a fabrication (never adequately reported by the Guardian), twice over the following year this leader article was obliquely cited — once in condemning another Israeli action by comparing it to the ‘repellent demolition of lives and homes in Jenin’ and most outrageously under the headline ‘Israel still wanted for questioning.’
Whilst it’s too soon to tell if subsequent Guardian articles on the battle in Shuja’iya will be modeled after their Jenin Lie, the galling omissions in the first two reports by Beaumont and Sherwood suggest, at the very least, the media group has learned nothing from past journalistic failures.