In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, Times of Israel today substantially improved an article which had created the false impression that an Israeli airstrike targeted civilians in a residential Damascus neighborhood. Today’s article, “Syria says 5 killed, 15 wounded in Israeli strike on Damascus residential area,” had buried the fact that the targeted high-security area “is home to senior security officials, security branches and intelligence headquarters and Iranian installations,” as the Guardian reports in its very first sentence. Notably, the Guardian also describes the neighborhood as “a heavily policed area where residents say several Iranian security agencies are located.”
Not until the ninth paragraph did the original iteration of the Times of Israel article give any indication that the strike was targeting anything aside from residential buildings. Deep into the article, Emanuel Fabian reported: “Orient News, a Syrian opposition media outlet claimed the strikes targeted Iranian militia officials at the so-called Iranian school in Kafar Sousah.”
While the military/security nature of the area was noted only in the ninth paragraph, the article, starting from the headline, repeatedly noted the residential nature of the area. The subheadline refers to the neighborhood, and mostly civilian victims (“Heavy damage inflicted to buildings in Kafar Sousah neighborhood; state-run news agency says victims mostly civilians”). Similarly, the first sentence stated: “The Israeli Air Force carried out a strike late Saturday night targeting a residential neighborhood . . . “
The article continued:
SANA, citing a military source, said four civilians and one soldier were killed, and another 15 civilians were wounded in the strike on the Kafar Sousah neighborhood in the Syrian capital. It said several of those wounded were listed in critical condition. . . . [3rd paragraph]
The airstrike also inflicted heavy damage to a number of residential buildings in Kafar Sousah, SANA said. [5th paragraph]
Images and video from the Damascus neighborhood showed heavy damage to several buildings. (Emphases added.)
In its correspondence with Times of Israel, CAMERA urged more prominent coverage of the fact that the strike hit an area crowded with Iranian intelligence and security offices. As Reuters’ opening sentence made clear (“Israeli missile strikes building in central Damascus“): “An Israeli rocket strike early on Sunday hit a building in central Damascus’s Kafr Sousa neighbourhood near a large, heavily guarded security complex close to Iranian installations, killing five people, witnesses and officials said.”
Times of Israel editors subsequently made substantial and commendable improvements to several elements of the article. A revised subheadline now adds that the Kafar Sousah neighborhood is “an area said to house Iranian sites.” In addition, starting in the second paragraph, editors also inserted:
Israeli officials have previously said the IDF does not target civilians and seeks to avoid damage to residential areas as much as possible.
According to the Reuters news agency, the strike targeted an area in the Kafar Sousah neighborhood in the Syrian capital, near a large and heavily guarded security complex and close to Iranian installations.
A few paragraphs later, the updated version also now reports:
Reuters said there are several multi-story security buildings located within Kafar Sousah.
Imad Mughniyeh, a notorious Hezbollah terror chief, was allegedly assassinated by Israel in a 2008 bombing in Kafar Sousah, close to where Saturday’s strike took place.
Furthermore, editors added this tweet apparently locating the strike to within 100 meters of where Mughniyeh was killed.
If this geolocation is accurate, the #Damascus strike was almost exactly where Imad Mughniyeh was killed in 2008. Barely 100 metres to the west #Syria https://t.co/YKXA0oivJ9 pic.twitter.com/QZNbSIfk6L
— Alex Rowell (@alexjrowell) February 19, 2023