livingissues: untangling some tough issues of the 20th century

home our project our people links
our themes » Stories

UN admits Israel did not shell Gaza school

Posted by Richard D North in Campaigning / Green / Interrogating the Media / Media / Politics on 4 February 2009

Why we posted this: It’s official: the Israeli military did not – as widely reported at the time – shell a United Nations school in Gaza, killing 43 in its grounds. Time for an apology by the reporters?

The original story:
UN backtracks on claim that deadly IDF strike hit Gaza school
Amos Harel
3 February, 2009

Summary of the story:

Haaretz’s reporter began his story:

The United Nations has reversed its stance on one of the most contentious and bloody incidents of the recent Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza, saying that an IDF mortar strike that killed 43 people on January 6 did not hit one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools after all.

livingissues comment:
[This is slightly amended from earlier versions of this blog - apologies, RDN 14.45hrs, 4 February 2009.]

Haaretz’s story mostly checks out at a site referred to by the UN as an official source, ReliefWeb. See their story here. The story is buried by the UN low down in a document, without headline or signposting. So it looks like multiple apologies are in order.

The British media pushed out powerful elements of the original untruths with a great deal of emphasis, and presumably they believed that such allegations if true would do real hard to Israel’s reputation. Using that logic the British media ought to put the record straight – and with a great deal of emphasis.

Of course, the 43 dead remain dead and their families’ grief won’t be diminished by this “news”. Nor, perhaps, their sense of grievance.

It is worth noting that early reports of the incident on 6 January 2009 were often headlined in terms of an attack on a school (for instance, the Independent‘s). But the stories themselves (including the Independent‘s) often then noted that the shells fell outside the school. It was then often left ambiguous as to whether the fatalities and casualties from those shells were inside or outside the school.

Some accounts did report at least one UN official saying that the shells were outside the school and that there were no fatalities (but some casualties) inside it as a result. Indeed, the UNRWA seems to have got itself into a muddle and reversed its account quite early on. So the latest UN account confirms what some said, and corrects others. Namely, that the shells definitely landed outside the school, killing no-one.

One is now looking forward to evidence on the two other main allegations against the Israeli military and its New Year operations in Gaza: that they used phosphorus and “herded” a group of civilians into a building and then shelled it and them.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment