ZFA complaint about ABC timeline of the war

Official Statements

A timeline of the Hamas-Israel war, written by Annika Burgess and Brianna Morris-Grant and published on the ABC website (here) has many factual errors. And, by its many omissions, it is very biased.

The ZFA has submitted a complaint to the ABC. This is what we pointed out:

Factual errors

International Court of Justice
The timeline says in two places that the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to immediately halt its military operation in Rafah. This is untrue. On the second occurrence, it added that Israel says the order ‘does not rule out the IDF’s entire offensive’. The way this is framed is misleading.

What should have been reported is that the language of the ICJ finding is ambiguous and/or confusing. And that of the five judges that provided explanations for their decisions, four of them explicitly said the decision does not call for an immediate halt to the Israeli operation in Rafah. The ZFA provides an explanation of the finding, and what each judge said about it, here: https://www.zfa.com.au/icj-may-24-order-factsheet/

Further down, the timeline states that the ICJ “says some of Israel’s actions could plausibly be violations of the Genocide Convention”. This is also untrue. The ICJ finding said that it is plausible that Palestinians have the right to be protected from genocide (because everyone has the right to be protected from genocide). It specifically made no judgement as to whether Israel was committing genocide, or even whether the South African claim that Israel was committing genocide was plausible.

Total siege
The timeline said that on 7 October, Israeli “airstrikes on Gaza begin, along with a total siege”. This is untrue. Israel has never blocked aid going into Gaza through Rafah, or people leaving through Rafah (which is on the Egyptian border). Indeed, not until May 2024 did Israel have control of the Rafah border. The 7 October Hamas attacked destroyed two of the three water pipes going into Gaza (which, previous to the war, supplied nine per cent of Gaza’s water). By 15 October, the working pipe had been turned back on (https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-says-it-is-restarting-water-supply-to-southern-gaza-strip/). By 28 October, Israel had repaired and re-opened a second pipe (https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-reopens-second-of-three-water-pipelines-into-gaza/). Additional to aid always having been allowed to enter through the Egypt-Gaza crossing at Rafah, from 17 December, Israel allowed aid to be transferred through the Gaza-Israel crossing at Kerem Shalom. (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/aid-enters-gaza-through-israels-kerem-shalom-crossing-first-time-war-2023-12-17/) It has subsequently opened three other crossings, as well as facilitated airdrops and the building of a pier.

Hospitals cease to function
The timeline states that “within a few weeks, all hospitals serving northern Gaza will cease to function”. This is untrue. Hospitals in northern Gaza continue to function. In January 2024, the WHO reported that seven hospitals in northern Gaza remained operational (https://www.who.int/news/item/24-01-2024-who-and-partners-bring-fuel-to-al-shifa–as-remaining-hospitals-in-gaza-face-growing-threats)  Indeed, further down, the timeline itself indicates that on 18 March, al-Shifa Hospital was functioning.  A press released by the WHO in May 2024 discussed a functioning hospital in northern Gaza (https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1150016)

Hamas approves ceasefire proposal
The timeline states that “Hamas approves a proposal put forward by mediators Qatar and Egypt”. This is untrue. Hamas and Egypt significantly and secretly changed the wording of a proposal (which Israel and the US had already agreed to), then Hamas issued a statement saying it had accepted it. While there was initial confusion, because media reported the Hamas statement without fact-checking, the facts of what Hamas did came to light some time ago – and well before this timeline was published. (https://edition.cnn.com/2024/05/21/politics/sources-say-they-were-duped-by-egypt-changing-ceasefire-terms-for-hamas)

Omissions, contributing to bias

Hamas tactics
The timeline doesn’t once mention Hamas tactics that are the key reasons for the significant civilian death toll. These are: the tunnels in which Hamas combatants hide and out of which they come to attack Israeli soldiers; that Hamas combatants routinely don’t wear uniforms, in order to blend in with the surrounding civilian population; and the documented use of civilian infrastructure – hospitals, schools, UN buildings, etc – to store weapons and to serve as entrances to tunnels, and to fight.

Rafah explosion
The text about the tragic killing of 45 civilians in Rafah in May does not include evidence (available before the timeline was published) that the Israeli strike was 180 metres from where civilians were sheltering, and that the explosion that killed the civilians was likely caused by Hamas armaments. The facts are collated here: https://aijac.org.au/fresh-air/new-evidence-continues-to-exonerate-israel-in-rafahs-tel-al-sultan-tragedy/

Al-Ahli Hospital blast
The text about the 17 October al-Ahli Hospital blast doesn’t mention that it was caused by an errant Islamic Jihad rocket. A reasonable reader would conclude that the blast was caused by Israel.

Gaza Health Ministry
The Gaza Health Ministry is Hamas, though this is not mentioned in the timeline. Also, its civilian death toll figures have been debunked, but this fact is also excluded from the timeline.

Deaths in Jabalia refugee camp
Most of the deaths and destruction in the 31 October strike in the Jabaliya refugee camp were caused by the collapse of a Hamas tunnel that ran under the camp. This wasn’t mentioned in the timeline, which would lead a reasonable reader to conclude that an Israeli airstrike directly led to those deaths.

Deaths of Palestinians queuing for aid
The opening line in the section would lead a reasonable reader to conclude that Israel killed 100 Gazans queuing for aid, which is not what happened. Subsequent text provides the Israeli version of what happened (i.e. that most were crushed by trucks, not shot by Israelis). The text excludes that the crush happened when Palestinian gunmen within the crowd started firing.

Second operation in al-Shifa
Israel claims that no civilian was killed during the March 2024 operation in al-Shifa Hospital, but this was not reported in the timeline.

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