Headlines State As Fact Disputed Syrian Claim That Israeli Airstrike Killed Family

Although the unverified claim in Syria’s state-controlled news service that an Israeli airstrike last week in central Syria killed a family of four is disputed, multiple Western media outlets published headlines stating as fact that “Israeli warplanes strike Syria, kill 4, including children.”

Media outlets that carry this problematic headline include The Seattle Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston 25 News, and numerous others. All of the sites ran the identical Associated Press article. 

Yet as the article itself states, a Syrian opposition group maintains that the family was killed by debris from the Syrian air defense system, and not by Israeli planes:

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group that tracks Syria’s civil war, said the strikes targeted five posts for Iran-backed fighters based within Syrian army positions.

It said the posts were destroyed, adding that parts of one of the air defense missiles fell on a residential area, causing the casualties among civilians. (Emphasis added.)

Thus, while Syrian state media claims that Israeli warplanes are responsible for the family’s death, that information is disputed. For that reason, the AP article appropriately begins by attributing the allegation to the state-controlled Syrian media:
Israeli warplanes fired several missiles toward central Syria early on Friday, killing a family of four — including two children — and wounding four other people, state media reported. (Emphasis added.)
Likewise, AP’s own headline rightly qualifies: “Syrian state media: Israeli warplanes strike Syria, kill 4.” (Emphasis added.) However, the fact that so many secondary media outlets ran nearly the identical problematic headline for the same AP article indicates that it likely originated with the wire service, which subsequently improved its formulation by attributing the claim to Syrian state media. (There is no record, however, in Lexis-Nexis confirming that AP had published the flawed headline.)
In response to communication from CAMERA, U.S. News & World report commendably amended its headline which originally had stated as fact that an Israeli airstrike killed the family. (See screenshot at left). The amended headline now rightly attributes the claim to Syrian state media: “Syrian State Media: Israeli Warplanes Strike Syria, Kill 4, Including Children.”
Meanwhile, in further indication that it was not an Israeli airstrike which killed the family, Times of Israel reported:
The Syrian military did not explicitly say the deaths and destruction were caused by Israeli munitions, likely indicating that they were instead caused by Syrian surface-to-air missiles that misfired or from shrapnel. Syrian air defenses have caused the deaths of several Syrian civilians.
Indeed, CAMERA Arabic confirms that the Arabic report from SANA (Syria’s state news agency) distinguishes the Syrian military source from the civilian ones. While the civilians cites “hostile Israeli missiles” as responsible for  the civilians’ death, the military source maintains that what “resulted in the martyrdom of a family” was “the Israeli aggression,” without specifying Israeli munitions.
Meanwhile, Reuters, another leading wire service, attributed the claim that Israel is at fault to Syrian state media, but ignored the fact that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights disputed the official claim, stating that it was Syria’s defense missiles which was responsible for the civilian casualties.
Agence France Presse, for its part, commendably reported the Syrian opposition group charge that the Syrian missile defense system killed the family:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli raids targeted Syrian military sites and resulted in the “destruction” of five of them in an area of Hama where Iran-backed fighters are present.

But the war monitor said the civilians were killed by “debris from one of the Syrian anti-aircraft defence missiles that fell on a house in a densely populated neighbourhood”.

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