Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Israeli media and Aleppo

From Eyal: "So, the Israeli media has been parroting the claims about the Syrian
army massacring civilians in 7alab.Now, I will say that obviously the Syrian-Russian bombardment has been criminal; and they have conquered 7alab by sacrificing numerous civilian casualties; and that is a crime which puts them on a level close to that of the various fundamentalist Islamist militias they were attacking (who were doing about as much of the same thing as they could). Personal rule of thumb: Whoever shells the civilian population of a city loses any moral claim he may have had to ruling it. Still, these stories about mass killing of civilians in 7alab should raise suspicion, even from the perspective of someone who barely reads Arabic sources and only follows sources in English (or in my case also Hebrew). Why?

1. The Syrian army has been gradually conquering additional parts of 7alab since the end of July when they cut the rebel-held part from the larger rebel-held land mass east of the city. How come there were no news of massacres then (only shelling)? And through the next 4.5 months? 
What about about the last two weeks, when every other day a half-neighborhood was conquered? All I heard was reports of civilians managing to flee rebel-held areas. What's so special about Sheikh Sa3id or Karam A-Da3da3 that the Syrian army decides to massacre people there 
2. The conquest of the city is not complete yet; but in the reports on massacres - at least some of them - it says that East 7alab has been conquered and now there are massacres, as though this all happened 
overnight. So no massacres during 85% of the conquest, then massacres for another 5-10% of the conquest? It's not as though they brought some new military force just now into the battle which might be suspected of doing this.
3. The bias you've mentioned as well in covering rebel shelling, which also targets civilians indiscriminately from army forces.
4. The intense meddling of powers on both sides. Especially the West in terms of media, but Iran and Russia in terms of the fighting. Every report is suspect in these conditions, from both sides.
5. The strongest report of civilian killings is being walked back or qualified, apparently. First I read - and this was the main headline in Haaretz a couple of days ago - that 200 civilians were massacred. Later the reporting changed to 82 civilians having been shot on sight by the occupying forces. This second claim is not ludicrous - I mean, I would not be surprised if that was indeed the case while the army was rushing forward to capture more streets - but that's no longer a "massacre of 
6. The media channels making these reports without explaining how this information was gathered. This is doubly problematic when very few media outlets having reporters on the ground in 7alab. I mean, 82 is a very specific number. How did they reach it? Did the Syrian army even let anyone count civilian casualties? I kind of doubt it. The hospitals are supposed to be overflowing or out-of-order, videos show people wandering around in the streets, it's a total mess. Again, the number of civilians having died from close-quarters regime fire might be even higher than 
that, but who knows?

Some links to stories in Israeli news media:
"A plea for help, a goodbye and then silence - the 7alab massacre was 
broadcast on social media" (Dec 13th)

"Assad army declares victory in 7alab; reports of executions in the 
streets" (Dec 12th)(this at least attributes the claim of an execution of 180 people to 
"rebel-associated media")

"The Syrian army is massacring the residents of 7alab" (Dec 13th)

"Iranian President congratulates Assad for 7alab victory" (Dec 14th)
inside the item we read: "Over the last few days, 'credible report' 
[quotes are in the original Hebrew text -E.] have reached the UN of 
forces identified as being associated with the Syrian regime massacring 
civilians in the Eastern parts of the city. 'They enter homes and kill 
on the spot' sources in the UN recount from the reports."