WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Too Explosive to Mention?

The Washington Post covered Israel’s shooting of Mohammed Sidr — Hebron leader of Islamic Jihad — in an August 15, 2003 page A-20 story headlined “Israelis Kill Militant Leader, Sparking Vows of Revenge.”

Jerusalem correspondent Molly Moore notes a previous attempt to assassinate Sidr, “who Israeli officials said was at least partly responsible for the deaths of 19 Israelis over the past two years.” She also refers to his arrest by the Palestinian Authority but release “when Palestinian demonstrators stormed the Hebron prison where he was being held.”

Then, in the third and fourth paragraphs, Moore reports:

Before dawn this morning, Israeli troops caught up with Sidr again. They surrounded a building in Hebron where intelligence sources said Sidr was hiding in a carpentry workshop, according to an Israeli government statement. Shortly after he shot at the soldiers and threw a grenade that blew up an Israeli army search dog dispatched to sniff through the hideout, Sidr was killed by gunfire, Israeli military officials said.

In paragraph 12 of the 13-paragraph story, Moore cites an Israeli government statement claiming Sidr was planning an “imminent terror attack.”

Missing from the Post‘s account is information that the carpentry workshop may have doubled as Sidr’s bomb-making lab. An Associated Press story, “Islamic Jihad fugitive slain in raid; Militant group vows to avenge death of ‘ticking bomb’,” carried by The Washington Times, notes that an Israeli anti-tank missile set off secondary blasts inside Sidr’s hideout. the Times‘ reported the Israeli military’s assertion that “the warehouse [carpentry workshop] doubled as a bomb laboratory.”

Another AP story, “Israel kills Jihad activist; Violence endangers 6-week-old truce,” in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, quotes Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as saying that: “We caught him red-handed preparing another bomb in his own laboratory.”

Restrained Coverage of Restraint

The August 14, 2003 edition of the Post carried a one-paragraph brief about Israel’s demolition of the home of one of two suicide bombers whose attacks each killed an Israeli on August 12. The last of three sentences in the item noted that “Israeli officials have so far refrained from threatening large-scale military retaliation.”

In contrast, the August 14 Baltimore Sun carried a 15-paragraph article by Henry Chu of The Los Angeles Times, headlined “Twin suicide bombings bring unusually restrained response; Israelis, Palestinians try to contain political fallout.”


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