At LA Times, Obscured Targets

In two recent articles, the Los Angeles Times’ Ashraf Khalil has consistently omitted key information about Gaza Strip sites targeted by the Israeli army. His selective reporting gives the false impression that Israel makes no effort to avoid harm to civilians, and in fact targets them.

Rayan Home, Doubled as Weapons Cache

Thus, despite addressing the killing of top Hamas official Nizar Rayan and at least 13 of his family members in two separate articles, Khalil does not mention in either article that the Rayans were given warning to evacuate immediately prior to the bombing or that the home was used as a weapons depot. On January 2, Khalil reported along with Ahmed Burai:

An Israeli missile strike in the Gaza Strip killed a major political and military leader Thursday, and most of his family, as the militant group continued to launch rockets deep into Israeli territory. . . .

Although most senior Hamas leaders went into hiding when the Israeli air barrages began, Rayan made a point of living openly in his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp. He encouraged other leaders to follow suit.

“He refused to leave his house; he preferred to be a martyr,” the Hamas official said.

Thirteen members of Rayan’s family, including all four of his wives, were also killed in the strike, his teenage son Baraa told The Times.

Two more children are missing and presumed buried under the rubble of their family home. Although most senior Hamas leaders went into hiding when the Israeli air barrages began, Rayan made a point of living openly in his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp. He encouraged other leaders to follow suit. (“Israeli strike kills key Hamas leader”)

In his article the next day, Khalal again referred to Rayan’s general refusal to go into hiding, and again ignored the specific warning about the imminent attack, also known as “roof knocking.” In his Jan. 3 article co-authored with Rushi abu Alouf, he wrote:

A large crowd in Gaza paid tribute to Rayan, who was killed in his home along with his most of his family after publicly refusing to go into hiding as most of Hamas’ senior leaders did.

Yet, as reported by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a source hardly friendly to Israel, the death of Rayan and his many family members was completely avoidable. The January 2 report states:

The main feature of teh Israeli Air Force (IAF) attacks in the last 24 hours was the escalation in the targeting of residential houses belonging to Hamas leaders and militants. Some 25 such houses were attacked. Most of their residents received prior phone warnings by the IDF, informing them about the intention to bomb the house and advising their evacuation. In some cases the strike occurred only 5 minutes after the call. . .

Among the houses targeted yesterday was the house of Hamas leader Nizar Rayan in Jabaliya Refugee Camp, who refused to evacuate upon being warned of an imminent strike. As a result, Rayan and 13 of his family members, including 11 of his children, were killed and 12 were injured. According to the IDF the house served as an arms storage place. (Emphasis added.)

While OCHA at least mentioned the IDF statement that the house was used to store weapons, the Times made no reference to this information. The IDF statement, which was sent out to the foreign press, read:

Many secondary explosions were identified as a result of the attack, thus proving that the house was used for storing weaponry.  It was also used as a communications center. In addition, a tunnel was located under the house and was used for the escape of terror operatives.

Other major media outlets, such as the New York Times and Boston Globe, did mention the IDF statement about the weapons and tunnel in Rayan’s home. Matthew Kalman of the New York Daily News and Donald Macintyre of the Independent reported both the weapons cache and the “roof-knocking.”

Jabaliya Mosque

The Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the Jan. 2 bombing of a mosque in Jabaliya is again inferior to other major papers’. In the Jan. 3 article, Khalil and abu Alouf report:

Israeli jets Friday targeted a prominent mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp, along with several homes that the Israelis said belonged to Hamas operatives.

Once again, the Los Angeles Times ignored information provided by the Israeli army that the mosque was used as a storage site. The January 2 release, which was sent to the foreign press, stated:

The mosque was used as a weapons storage facility for a large amount of Grad and Qassam rockets and additional weaponry.  The strike set off a lengthy series of secondary explosions and a large fire caused by the ammunitions stockpiled in the mosque.

The mosque was also used as a operations center for Hamas, as a meeting place for Hamas’s operatives and a staging ground for terror attacks.

The New York Times, the Independent, and the Washington Post, among others, included this information in their reporting.
By ignoring all information pointing to the presence of arms at locations generally considered civilian (a home and a place of worship), the Los Angeles Times gives a false picture of an Israeli army targeting civilians. This impression is reinforced by the inclusion of details about (unintended) civilian deaths. The Jan. 3 article by Khalil and abu Alouf states:

Among the dead Friday were Mohammed Astal, 11, his brother Abed Rabbo Astal, 8, and their 10-year-old cousin Walid Astal. Witnesses said the boys were standing outside their home in the western Gaza city of Khan Yunis chewing on stalks of sugar cane when an Israeli missile struck.

“Why they were targeted? There were neither armed Hamas positions nor governmental compounds,” said the victims’ uncle Mohammed Astal. “For what was this bombing? I want the world of democracy to tell me.”

Inside the Astal family home, Umm Mohammed, mother of the two slain brothers, sat among grieving relatives.

“I have five boys and three daughters,” she said. “Mohammed was my eldest son. He was a brave boy. He never feared death. I ask Allah to accept him as a present from me and to let me join him in heaven.”

While the boys’ tragic deaths are unquestionably newsworthy, so are reports that homes and mosques are used as weapons depots. Likewise, so are accounts that residents are given warning to evacuate their homes, which do double-duty as arms caches. Khalil’s failure to include this information gives unwarranted support to Mohammad Astal’s claim that his young nephews were deliberately targeted.

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