Media Blog

NDTV Reporter Explains the ‘Backstory’ of His Hamas Rocket Video

This is a great post by NDTV reporter Sreenivasan Jain where he explains his reporting of the now viral video of Hamas fighters firing a rocket at Israel from next to his hotel. An excerpt:

We knew then we had to air the story. For us to have filmed how a rocket was assembled next to us, on a site used twice to launch a rocket, endangering the lives of all those around us on two occasions -to not have reported it would have been simply wrong. But we did take precautions – we aired the report a good five hours after the rocket was launched, well into the ceasefire. By then it was clear that Israel was not responding, at least for the period of the ceasefire. (Incidentally, given Israel’s extensive surveillance of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip it hardly seems they would need the media to point out to them where rockets are fired from.) 

There was the question of  possible reprisal by Hamas; to this one, there are no easy answers other than to ask: how long do we self-censor because of the fear of personal safety in return for not telling a story that exposes how those launching rockets are putting so many more lives at risk, while the rocket-makers themselves are at a safe distance?  More so when we have rare, first hand proof of how it works?  

We have been asked how we can be sure that those who fired the rocket were members of Hamas. With groups like Hamas, absolute certainty is always hard to establish. The rocket we witnessed was not a one -off, launched by one of the splinter groups of the resistance. It was launched in a flurry of outbound missiles in the final moments before the ceasefire came into effect, suggesting the handiwork of the biggest, most-organized and well-stocked group on the Gaza Strip- Hamas. Also the fact that this was the second time a rocket was launched from the same spot a week prior suggests  this is not the work of one of the factions/ freelancers  but a more entrenched group.

Jain continued with a warning to both the Israelis and Palestinians from using his work as “propaganda” one way or the other:

I can’t imagine anything more disingenuous in both these positions. For starters, our report in no way absolves the IDF from taking responsibility for the appalling toll its offensive has taken on civilian lives. If anything, it only makes it all the more incumbent for the Israeli Army to evolve a response that minimizes the damage to civilian lives and property. So far, none is visible. As we and other media have reported from Gaza Strip areas like Rafah, Khuzaa, Shejaiya and Beit Hanoun, entire neighborhoods have been laid to waste, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians, many of them children  in order to hunt down a tunnel, or knock out a rocket launch pad. (Also Read: NDTV’s Hamas Exclusive Is An International Headline)

Equally, if we have reported that the other side – Hamas – is also posing a risk to Gaza civilians, surely those who are concerned about the Palestinian cause should direct their ire at that group, and not at us? Our report in no way implies proportionality. The death toll – close to 1800 Palestinians killed to about 60 Israelis – hardly needs restating. We know that compared to Israel’s firepower, Hamas’s rockets are a minor threat. Of the almost 3,600 fired so far, only 10% have posed a serious risk to Israel’s cities and have been taken down by its Iron Dome response system. The rocket we saw, in all probability, must have been the one of the 1000s that landed in open areas. But by firing these rockets from civilian areas, they threaten the people of Gaza more than anyone else: that was the simple point of this report.   

Instead a series of arguments have been thrown at us, for instance, the ‘we have no choice’ argument, suggesting that Israeli encroachment has deprived Gaza of open spaces from which Hamas can launch attacks.  This is factually dubious – one only has to drive down the Salahudin Road from Gaza City in the north to Khan Younis in the south to see that the Gaza strip is not, as is commonly believed a continuous urban agglomeration. ‘We have no choice’ is also intellectually questionable – it is the same argument that Israel advances to defend its atrocious record of collateral killings. 

I understand that he doesn’t want his work used to make the case for war for one side or the other, but the reason his reporting became so popular with the pro-Israel crowd is because of its uniqueness. If more reporters were allowed to report accurately from Hamas, the world would be better served.



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