A Palestinian terrorist leader was killed in an Israeli airstrike Tuesday morning, yet the Agence France-Presse referred to him simply as a “Palestinian.”
In a tweet thread announcing the death of Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior leader of the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the AFP first reported, simply, “Breaking: Palestinian killed in new Israel strike in Gaza: Hamas ministry.”
A follow-up tweet contained the European Union’s demand for a “rapid and complete de-escalation” after Israel struck Gaza. The next tweet in the thread is the only one that mentions that the Palestinian killed was a terrorist. “VIDEO: Israel’s military has killed a commander for the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a strike in the Gaza Strip, prompting retaliatory rocket fire,” the tweet said.
The final tweet in the thread just repeated: “Breaking Palestinian killed in new Israeli strike: Gaza ministry.”
The thread ignores important context surrounding al-Ata’s death. Other media outlets provided that context. The Times of Israel reported that the country launched the targeted attack on al-Ata, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanya called the “chief terrorist in Gaza.”
“He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, whose suffering we have seen,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “He was in the midst of planning additional attacks in the immediate short term. He was a ticking bomb.”
In response, more than 150 rockets have been fired at Israel since al-Ata’s death. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly shot down 50 of the rockets, and did not retaliate for six hours. The BBC reported that 17 Israelis were “lightly wounded” in attacks, including an eight-year-old girl who is now in stable condition.
In addition to al-Ata, Israel also struck the home of a second PIJ leader in the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to Syria’s state news agency.
The AFP’s tweets ignoring why the “Palestinian” was killed is reminiscent of the obituary The Washington Post wrote for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death. Al-Baghdadi was the world’s top terrorist and killed himself by blowing up himself and several members of his family to avoid U.S. capture. The Post originally headlined its obituary: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dies at 48.” The headline was then changed to refer to al-Baghdadi as an “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State.” The headline was changed again to call al-Baghdadi the “extremist leader of Islamic State.”
The Post’s article wrote of al-Baghdadi in far more favorable terms than other terrorists.
“Acquaintances would remember him as a shy, nearsighted youth who liked soccer but preferred to spend his free time at the local mosque,” the Post wrote of the terrorist leader.
This was a different tone than the Post struck when Osama bin Laden was killed during the Obama administration. Bin Laden was called the “leader of terrorist group al-Qaeda” when he died, with no headline changes. Further, the Post waited until the 34th paragraph in its article to acknowledge that al-Baghdadi was a serial rapist of women he held as sex slaves.