HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

Who Killed 7 Palestinians?

If the hurried news consumer is reduced to scanning headlines, the answer is Israel. However, reality is that the Palestinians themselves may have killed their own in a hasty response to an Israeli operation aimed at a local leader of the Popular Resistance Committees. Another report suggests that the firing between the two factions occurred before the Israelis even happened upon the scene. Yet most headlines on the story convey a conslusiveness that, at least at the time of reportage, was non-existent.

In this age of information warfare, it is ever more important that editors mind the content and headlines of wire stories. This need was put plainly on display during the recent Reuters photography controversy where a Lebanese photographer sympathetic to Hizballah supplied doctored photos intended to exaggerate Israeli attacks which were run by the news organization – and consequently used widely by others as well.

Today, widely run Associated Press and Reuters news wire service headlines and subsequent stories regarding seven Palestinian deaths reflect similar dangers to inattentive editors and leads to potentially misinforming their vast readerships.

In reading the various published reports available, it appears that Israel launched an attack aimed at killing the local northern Gaza commander of the Popular Resistance Committees who commanded the group that has been primarily responsible for the many Qassam rocket launches into nearby Israeli towns. When the shots began to ring out, the Palestinian group under fire seems to have made the mistake of thinking that the gunfire had come from a nearby house occupied by a rival Palestinian faction. They immediately began to fire upon the house. When the dust settled, seven apparently lay dead, including the PRC commander, Atar Shinbari.

But who killed whom is far from clear. Yet, the headlines widely read that Israel killed seven Palestinians, an account that solely relies upon a single Palestinian source.

The Reuters headline reads “Israel kills 7 in Gaza battle-Palestinian officials”. ABC News picks up the Reuters report, complete with the supplied headline, unmodified.

The Associated Press forgoes the ‘Palestinian Sources’ tagline altogether and runs a headline reading simply ”Israeli Troops Kill 7 Palestinians”. The Boston Globe picks up the story and runs the same misleading headline provided by the AP.

Yet how can these news organizations be so certain that Israel killed the seven Palestinians? Even with the ‘Palestinian Sources’ tagline (_Reuters_), the headline is misleading, especially when so many news consumers scan headlines in their busy days, reading few articles compared to headlines and reading even fewer still in full.

The UK’s Monsters & Critics seems to display the patience necessary to choose an alternative headline, though it may be perhaps the same headline supplied by Deutsche Presse-Agentur, who the British news service uses for wire reports rather than AP or Reuters. Yet even still, the Monsters & Critics headline draws a conclusion that is unclear (Six killed, 10 wounded in Gaza gunfight sparked by family feud), though they should be applauded for not attempting to convey to readers who killed whom.

At any rate, somewhere along the line of reportage, someone in the DPS/Monsters & Critics chain refrained from the simple, easy and unfair headline reading “Israelis Kill Seven Palestinians”.

It is today’s lesson in basic news consumption and one of the principal reasons ThreatsWatch continues to attempt to provide multiple-source, multiple-report context in our regular InBrief content.