CBS Falsely Reports U.S. Warned Israel Not To Attack Rafah

In the Feb. 10 CBS Saturday Morning News broadcast, correspondent Deborah Patta falsely reported that the United States warned Israel against attacking Rafah, Hamas’ remaining stronghold in the south of the Gaza Strip. In reality, the Americans warned Israel not to carry out an attack which does not take into account the more than one million Palestinians sheltering there. Contrary to CBS’ reporting, the American warning did not rule out an Israeli attack.

In her error-ridden reporting, Patta claimed:

Palestinians who fled to Rafah are bracing themselves for an Israeli military advance. National Security spokesman John Kirby has said this would be a disaster. Although seeking refuge there and not something the U.S. would support. It’s been 126 days of war, one of the deadliest in modern history, almost 28,000 dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, nearly half of them are children. Utter misery everywhere you look. Prompting President Biden’s strongest rebuke of Israel yet, calling its conduct in Gaza “over the top.”
[President Biden]: A lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s got to stop.

Reporter: But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stubbornly refuses to listen, instead ordering his military to evacuate civilians in Rafah ahead of a massive push there.

In his press briefing, Kirby did not call a potential Israeli military advance into Rafah a “disaster.” He called an Israeli military advance with no plans to safeguard civilians sheltering there a disaster. Here’s what he actually said:

I think you all know more than a million Palestinians are — are sheltering in and around Rafah.  That’s where they were told to go.  There’s a lot of displaced people there.  And the Israeli military has a special obligation as they conduct operations there or anywhere else to make sure that they’re factoring in protection for — for innocent civilian life, particularly, you know, the civilians that were — were pushed into southern Gaza by operations further north — Khan Younis and North Gaza. 

I could tell you that — absent any full consideration of protecting civilians at that scale in Gaza — military operations right now would be a disaster for those people, and it’s not something that we would support.

Nor has President Biden warned Israel not to attack in Rafah. One day after Patta’s report falsely claiming a sweeping U.S. warning against attacking Rafah, it was widely reported that President Biden warned Prime Minister Netanyahu to implement a strong plan to protect civilians before attacking Rafah. As Reuters reported yesterday (“Biden urged Israel’s Netanyahu to protect civilians in Gaza – White House“):

U.S. President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there, the White House said. …

Biden also emphasized his view that “a military operation in Rafah just really cannot proceed without a credible and implementable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than 1 million people that are now sheltering there,” the official said, adding that they simply had “nowhere to go.” [Emphasis added.]

Thus, far from “stubbornly refus[ing] to listen” to his American interlocutors, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was attentively listening when he ordered the military to devise a plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah.

Furthermore, contrary to Patta’s reporting, Netanyahu did not order “his military to evacuate civilians in Rafah ahead of a massive push there.” Rather, as was widely reported, he ordered the military to develop an evacuation plan. Patta did need not turn to The New York Times (“Netanyahu Orders evacuation plan  or CNN (“Netanyahu directs Israeli military to draw up plan to evacuate more than one million people from Rafah as offensive looms“) for information on Netanyahu’s orders for an evacuation plan. CBS Morning Show host Jeff Glor himself accurately reported in the introduction to Patta’s very own segment (10 seconds in): “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his military forces to submit an evacuation plan for Rafah.”

Further pushing the erroneous reporting that the Israeli military has already issued evacuation orders, Patta claimed:

Our team in Gaza tells us that the Israeli military has given people several options, move to an already overcrowded part of Rafah, go to Khan Younis, which is still being bombed, or return to the north, which has been all but obliterated.

Finally, Patta’s assertion that Israel’s war with Hamas “is one of the deadliest in modern history,” with 28,000 reported dead, is patently false. (She fails to identify the figure’s source as Hamas, the designated terror organization which in October carried out one of the worse mass atrocities targeting civilians in recent memory.) Israel’s current war with Hamas is hardly the deadliest in recent history even within the Middle East; Syria’s war saw 470,000 fatalities; 150,000 died in Yemen’s Yemen’s war; another 150,000 perished in Lebanon’s civil war; 500,000 lives were lost in the Iraq’s war with Iran; and 150,000 Iraqis died during the Gulf War. 

See also “Reuters Reporting Goes South, Falsely Claims Israel Ordered Palestinians in Rafah to Evacuate Southward

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