NBC Errs on Rafah Crossing, U.S. Message to Israel on Civilians

NBC’s Oct. 16 article, “‘Every man for himself’: Guilt and anger for Palestinian Americans hoping to flee Gaza,” contains two factual errors. First, the article errs concerning the administration of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, stating: “There are two parts to the land crossing — first, a security check manned by the Palestinian Authority. . . “

In fact, the Palestinian Authority forces withdrew from the Rafah Crossing in 2019, handing it over to Hamas. Since then, the crossing’s security check is manned by Hamas, the designated terror organization which rules the Gaza Strip. As the BBC correctly reported Oct. 16: “Hamas and Egypt exercise control over who can pass through . . .”

Screenshot from Secretary of State Blinken’s Oct. 16 briefing in which he said “the President will hear from Israel how it will conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties” (Video from US Department of State)

Separately, the NBC story by Yasmine Salam and Mirna Alsharif misrepresents Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s message to Israel during his recent trip to the Middle East. The article claims: “The effort was meant to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from spreading and to encourage Israel not to target civilians.” (Emphasis added.)

What evidence is there that Blinken tried to “encourage Israel not to target civilians,” as if there is U.S. concern that Israel will target civilians? While the American administration is concerned about Palestinian civilians who will inevitably face hardships and come into harm’s way as Israel pursues its objective to topple Hamas, it is well aware that Israel, unlike Hamas, does not target civilians. Therefore, there is no reason to “encourage Israel not to target civilians.”

Indeed, the State Department’s Oct. 16 release regarding Blinken’s visit with Israeli Defense Minister Gallant states:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met today with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss Israel’s response to Hamas’ despicable terrorism. The Secretary underlined his commitment to supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism and efforts to prevent the conflict from widening.

Reuters correctly reported on Blinken’s message to Israel: “Blinken returned to Israel after an intense series of visits with regional leaders to try to contain the Israel-Hamas conflict and secure humanitarian aid and safe passage for U.S. citizens and civilians in Gaza.”

In addition, Blinken stated in an Oct. 16 press conference about President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel:

Fifth, the President will hear from Israel how it will conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and enables humanitarian assistance to flow to civilians in Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas.

To that end, today, and at our request, the United States and Israel have agreed to develop a plan that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza – and them alone – including the possibility of creating areas to help keep civilians our of harm’s way.  It is critical that aid begin flowing into Gaza as soon as possible.

We share Israel’s concern that Hamas may seize or destroy aid entering Gaza or otherwise preventing it from reaching the people who need it.  If Hamas in any way blocks humanitarian assistance from reaching civilians, including by seizing the aid itself, we’ll be the first to condemn it and we will work to prevent it from happening again.

Again, Blinken said nothing about encouraging Israel not to target civilians, and the reason is because the U.S. knows very well that Israel, unlike Hamas, does not do that.

CAMERA has contacted NBC to request corrections on these two points. Stay tuned for any updates.

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