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Middle East Issues





AP Corrects Unsubstantiated Captions Attributing Beit Hanoun Casualties to Israel


Following communication from CAMERA, Associated Press editors have commendably corrected a series of unsubstantiated captions accompanying July 24 photographs which unequivocally blamed Israel for casualties that day at an UNRWA school in the northern Gaza Strip.
 
A sampling of some of those original photographs follows:
 
 
The caption states:
Palestinian children, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, cry as they lay on the floor at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israel tank shells hit the compound, killing more than a dozen people and wounding dozens more who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra says the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
 
The caption reads:
A Palestinian man cries after bringing a child, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, to the emergency room at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israeli tank shells hit the compound, killing more than a dozen people and wounding dozens more who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra says the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
 
According to the caption:
Palestinian children, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, lay on the floor of an emergency room at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israeli tank shells hit the compound, killing more than a dozen people and wounding dozens more who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes in the streets outside. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra says the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
 
But as CAMERA has written before, numerous news reporters, including those working for the Associated Press, as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have acknowledged that the circumstances behind the July 24 Beit Hanoun casualties are unclear. The AP itself carefully reported that day:
A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children's clothing scattered in the courtyard.
 
Palestinian officials blamed Israel for the shelling, which wounded dozens and came on the deadliest day so far of the current round of fighting. However, the Israeli military said the school "was not a target in any way" and raised the possibility the compound was hit by Hamas rockets.
In addition, a separate AP article followed up on the disputed incident July 27:
Israel acknowledged Sunday that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza last week, but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone.

The shell was not fired at the school intentionally, an army spokesman said.

The IDF's statement, which was release the same day as the drone footage, is here.
 
After relaying this information to photo editors, the Associated Press commendably updated the entire series of photographs, releasing them again July 31 with correct captions. The new, accurate captions are as follows:
 
 
The corrected caption states:
Palestinian children, wounded during fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants near a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, cry as they lie on the floor of the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israel acknowledged that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza last week, but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone. It also sated that shell was not fired at the school intentionally.
 
 
The accurate caption reads:
A Palestinian man cries after bringing a child, wounded during fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants near a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, to the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israel acknowledged that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza last week, but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone. It also sated that shell was not fired at the school intentionally.
 
The caption reads:
Palestinian children, wounded during fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants near a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, are treated as they lie on the floor of an emergency room at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israel acknowledged that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza last week, but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone. It also sated that shell was not fired at the school intentionally
The AP is to be commended for setting the record straight, and for its commitment to getting the facts right on the Beit Hanoun tragedy. The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, has yet to correct its unsubstantiated captions on the very same topic.
 
For additional AP corrections prompted by CAMERA, please see here.

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