The BBC has apologised to viewers after a war correspondent suggested that a hospital explosion in Gaza on Tuesday (October 17) was caused by Israel despite having no evidence for it.
BBC viewers were fuming at the broadcaster for their coverage of the suspected attack on the Ahli Arab Hospital, which left hundreds dead or critically injured. The correspondent in Jerusalem – Jon Donnison – said on air that it was "hard to see what [else] it could have been other than an Israeli air strike or several air strikes."
Donnison said that the pictures hadn't yet been verified, but viewers rushed to complain to the broadcaster. One wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "Your reporting of this explosion… is an utter disgrace. How dare you take sides in this manner without fully investigating the evidence?".
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Another said: "First we had the reluctance to reference Hamas as terrorists… then we had the unquestioning acceptance that Israel had bombed the hospital." A third commented: "If the BBC reports that Israel has bombed a hospital killing hundreds of men, women and children, I would expect it to have checked the veracity of such a claim first."
The BBC later accepted it "had been wrong". A statement read: "We accept that even in this fast-moving situation, it was wrong to speculate in any way, although [our correspondent] did not at any point report that it was an Israeli strike.
"This doesn't represent the entirety of BBC output. Anyone watching, listening to or reading our coverage can see we have set out both sides' competing claims about the explosion, clearly showing who is saying them and what we do or don't know."
Hamas has blamed an Israeli air strike for the attack on Tuesday, but the Israeli military said the hospital was hit by a rocket misfired by Palestinian militants.
Jonathan Munro, the deputy chief executive of BBC News, admitted the broadcaster's language "wasn't quite right". Speaking at the Media Society's Reporting the Israel Hamas Conflict event on Thursday, he said: "The correspondent [Jon Donnison] was wrong to speculate about the cause of the explosion of the hospital."
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He added: "At no stage did he actually say it was caused by the Israelis … but nonetheless, when the impression is left that we’ve speculated, [it] is important to correct that which we’ve done. Somewhere along the line, human beings are going to make a mistake on a bit of output and when it gets magnified and is used as an example of getting things wrong, it’s a very uncomfortable place to be."
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