Did New Gaza Cease-Fire Start With an Israeli Airstrike?

This NY Times story didn't start out this way.

This NY Times story didn’t start out this way.

The new cease-fire in Gaza began on August 4. But did it begin with an Israeli airstrike on a refugee camp in Gaza City that killed an eight-year-old girl?

That is what some media accounts suggest. A headline at the Independent (8/4/14) reads, “Israel ‘Breaks Ceasefire in Minutes’ as Eight-Year-Old Girl Killed in Air Strike.” The Washington Post reported (8/5/14):

Just minutes after the cease-fire was set to begin Monday morning, Israel fired two missiles at a multi-story house in the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, killing at least three people, including an 8-year-old girl, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The Post added that the attack “came after the cease-fire was supposed to have taken effect…. Capt. Eytan Buchman, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, acknowledged it was possible that the attack on the house in the Shati camp had occurred after 10 a.m.” On the CBS Evening News (8/4/14), Clarissa Ward reported that “minutes after the Israeli-initiated truce began, a missile hit a house in Gaza city, killing an eight-year-old girl. It’s not clear who was responsible.”

But if you read the New York Times on August 5, you saw a story by Steven Erlanger headlined  “Israel Moves to Wrap Up Gaza Military Operation.” The strike was mentioned near the end of the piece:

Palestinians accused Israel of violating its own cease-fire when the air force struck a house in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, killing a girl, 8, and wounding at least 29.

Palestinians said the attack came minutes after the cease-fire, while one Israeli official, Yoav Poli Mordechai from Cogat, the army agency that controls coordination with Gaza, told Israel Radio that the attack was several minutes before. The Israeli military, for its part, said the strike, aimed at “a senior Hamas operative,” was at “approximately 10 a.m.,” when the cease-fire began.

And the piece included a correction:

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article overstated what is known about the timing of an Israeli strike on the Shati refugee camp in Gaza on Monday that killed an 8-year-old girl and wounded 29 others. While the Gaza Health Ministry asserted the attack took place after 10 a.m., the start of Israel’s unilateral seven-hour cease-fire, an Israeli military official said the attack was carried out before 10 a.m.

This is intriguing, since it might cause one to wonder what the piece looked like before it was corrected.

According to the NewsDiffs website–which tracks edits to news stories on sites like the Times‘–the piece started out with a very different emphasis. The early headline: “Israel Declares Partial Cease-Fire, Then Strikes.” The lead stressed the same angle:

Minutes after Israel began a unilateral and partial cease-fire in Gaza on Monday, the air force struck a house in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, killing a girl, 8, and wounding at least 29 others.

At some point in the afternoon, the piece was entirely recast, and the strike was moved to the bottom of the piece.

The correction chalks it up to an “editing error”–which would seem to mean putting too much stock in the Hamas claim that the attack came after the cease-fire was to begin. The final version of the article includes the Israeli explanation that the attack happened at “approximately” the start of the cease-fire, which is not exactly a denial.

On its face, it appears that the Times decided that they didn’t want to lead with the news that a girl was killed in an Israeli airstrike right after the start of a cease-fire. Some clarity would be helpful.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.