You may have noticed the latest mini-crisis from Gaza: on Monday, five Palestinian civilians, including four children, were killed in a clash between the IDF and Hamas. How did the civilians die? Narratives collide: the IDF says two of the terrorists involved in the battle were carrying backpacks filled with explosives, which detonated and destroyed the nearby house that contained the civilians. Palestinians say the house sustained a direct hit from an Israeli tank shell or missile.

You’d think that anyone reporting the incident would be compelled to allow the ambiguous nature of the battle to feature prominently in his coverage. And some journalists, like Ethan Bronner of the New York Times, did just that. Bronner notes in the opening sentence of his story that "a dispute quickly arose over exactly how [the civilians] had died."

But much of the rest of the foreign press stuck to the script. And their initial reports, in traditional fashion, showcased–usually in the opening sentence–the claim that the IDF had shelled a Palestinian civilian house. In the case of the AP, the story has now been re-written. But no correction is posted or acknowledged. Yes, really. Here’s the original lede of the AP’s account:

An Israeli tank shell fired during a clash with Palestinian gunmen tore into a tiny Gaza Strip home on Monday, Palestinian officials said, killing a Palestinian woman and four of her children and threatening efforts to arrange a truce between the warring sides.

At some point in the past 24 hours, this report was simply re-written so that the opening now reads:

A Palestinian mother and her four small children died in a blast in their tiny house during a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, and each side blamed the other for the explosion.

The International Herald Tribune redactors should be advised to be more thorough in their clean-ups, though. The caption of the photo that accompanies their story still reads, "A Palestinian woman reacting as she stands next to the house that was hit by an Israeli shell, killing a mother and her children."

There is a deeper problem here: the manner in which news is gathered from Gaza, which has been inhospitable territory for western journalists for quite some time (remember what happened to Alan Johnston?). News organizations like the AP and Reuters rely, for their on-the-ground Gaza coverage, on Palestinian reporters and stringers whose objectivity and professionalism, to put it charitably, are in doubt. And this is not necessarily the fault of these individual reporters. They work and live in Gaza at the pleasure of Hamas, which views journalists as an acceptable presence only insofar as they can be used as propaganda conduits for their cause.

The Reuters report on the incident is headlined "Israeli fire ‘kills four children in Gaza.’" Where did that fig leaf of false objectivity provided by the quote marks come from? Well, from "residents and medical officials." But how does someone working in a hospital in Gaza know the manner in which a battle unfolded? And is it really credible that the cited Gaza "residents" are going to tell reporters that Hamas, not the IDF, is at fault for the deaths of their neighbors? And are we really to believe that Reuters’ and the AP’s reporters on the ground actually conducted an objective survey of eyewitnesses? The media war continues.

The indispensable Yaacov Lozowick has more.

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