The New York Times has admitted it “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas” in its recent report blaming Israel for the Gaza hospital attack.
The Times released a statement on Monday, five days after running its headline, which read: “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say.”
“The Times’s initial accounts attributed the claim of Israeli responsibility to Palestinian officials and noted that the Israeli military said it was investigating the blast,” the editors’ note said.
“However, the early versions of the coverage — and the prominence it received in a headline, news alert and social media channels — relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified.”
Times editors also acknowledged that “the report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.”
While the Times claims they quickly edited the hospital story after Israeli officials denied the attack, it said, “Given the sensitive nature of the news during a widening conflict and the prominent promotion it received, Times editors should have taken more care with the initial presentation and been more explicit about what information could be verified.”
According to the original report, 500 people were killed in the attack, in which they blamed Israel and evenincluded a picture of a wrecked building that was not actually the Al-Ahli Hospital.
As The New York Post reported:
Israeli officials have vehemently denied responsibility for the explosion at the Al-Ahli Hospital last week, and have even released audio files of Hamas officials admitting that the blast was caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad projectile that fell into Gaza.
They also provided images showing that the parking lot where the blast occurred did not have a crater in the ground, and no structural damage was dealt to nearby buildings — both of which typically would have been left by an Israeli Defense Forces strike.
The Biden administration has backed Israel’s claims, saying the Jewish nation is “not responsible” for the deadly attack.
Investigations by the Wall Street Journal, CNN and the Associated Press have also found evidence that the missile came from the terrorist organization — and not Israel — based on television footage they said appeared to show a misfired Palestinian rocket in the air above the hospital.
But the New York Times still says it is unclear who fired the missile.
In a story published Sunday, it noted that there were discrepancies in Hamas’ reporting on the strike — and said the terrorist organization refused to allow reporters to view the remnants of the site.
Times reporters wrote that spokespeople for Hamas have released death tolls varying from 500 to 833, before ultimately settling on 471 victims.
US officials, however, believe the death toll was between 100 to 300 people, while a European official put the toll at 50 or less.
“The Hamas-run health ministry has also declined to release further details about those 471 victims, and all traces of the munition have seemingly vanished from the site of the blast, making it impossible to assess its provenance,” the Times reporters wrote.
They noted that Hamas officials turned down their request to view evidence left at the scene, claiming that it disintegrated beyond recognition.
“The missile has dissolved like salt in the water,” Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, claimed to the newspaper. “It’s vaporized. Nothing is left.”
Salama Maroof, head of Hamas-run government media office, also texted the reporters: “Who said we’re obligated to present the remnants of every rocket that kills our people? In general, you can come and research and confirm for yourself from the evidence we possess.”
But a munitions expert who spoke to the Times dismissed Hamas’ claim that the munition would have wholly disintegrated on impact.
“One would expect remnants to be recoverable in all but the most extreme circumstances, and the available imagery of the hospital site suggests something out to be identifiable on the ground,” said NR Jenzen-Jones, director of Australia-based Armament Research Services.
Yet the Times refused to say that the attack was not caused by an Israeli airstrike.
Reporters noted that Israeli officials also turned down requests to provide logs of its military activity in the area at the time, and declined to specify the video on which it based its assessment that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was to blame.
“Israeli messaging about the rocket launch site has also been inconsistent,” they wrote. “Admiral [Daniel] Hagari suggested the errant rocket was launched from a cemetery close to the hospital, while a map posted online by the military suggested the launch site was farther away.”
They suggested the strike could have been caused by a different Israeli rocket than the IDF normally uses that would cause a smaller impact, like an interceptor fired by an air defense or an artillery shell.
But Israel claims it does not fire interceptors into Gazan airspace, and that it was not firing shells toward that specific area at the time, the reporters note, adding that Israeli officials say their attacks are aimed at members of terrorist groups and their infrastructure.
“Without examining the munition that hit the parking lot, it may be impossible to draw a definitive conclusion about who fired it,” the Times reporters concluded.