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June 21, 2005

2 AP Stories Report Half-Truth (And Ignore Other Half)


A Palestinian woman was stopped by Israeli security forces yesterday, apparently on her way to blow herself up in an Israeli hospital.

But you wouldn't know that if your local paper relied on misleading stories on the subject by Josef Federman or Steven Gutkin of the Associated Press.

Federman wrote: "Also Monday, Israeli troops stopped a Palestinian woman with 22 pounds of explosives hidden on her body after she unsuccessfully tried to blow herself up at a crossing from Gaza into Israel."

Gutkin wrote: "And Israel's army said it arrested a Palestinian woman who tried to blow herself up at a Gaza crossing."

It is true that she tried to blow herself up at the crossing. But that is only half of the story — the less noteworthy half. The woman, Wafa al-Biss, was on her way to detonate her explosives at an Israeli hospital. Only after her plan was foiled by Israeli security forces, who realized she was smuggling a bomb through the crossing, did she try to prematurely detonate her bomb at the crossing.

Unlike these AP reporters, much of the media relayed the full story.

The L.A. Times' Laura King noted:

Soldiers at the scene said that once Bass realized she had been spotted, she tried unsuccessfully to detonate the explosives. Israeli authorities said she later confessed that she had been told by the Palestinian militants who dispatched her to set off the bomb at a hospital.

Matthew Fisher wrote in the Ottawa Citizen (and other newspapers):

Wafa Samir Ibrahim Bass told Israeli authorities she was a member of the al-Asqa Martyrs' Brigade, a breakaway faction of Fatah, the Palestinian political movement. Her intended target was said to be a medical clinic in the southern Israeli city of Beer'sheva.

Agence France Presse relayed that

In a highly embarrassing incident for Abbas, a 21-year-old Gaza woman was arrested Monday allegedly on her way to bomb a hospital

CNN's Guy Raz said

This bomb wasn't meant to be safely detonated by an Israeli explosives team. The intended destination: a hospital. A 21-year-old would-be suicide bomber from Gaza planned to set off the explosive inside an Israeli medical center where she was scheduled to receive treatment by Israeli doctors

and the Web site reported that

On Monday, Israeli troops said they arrested a woman who apparently planned to carry out a suicide bombing at an Israeli hospital.

Finally, the AP's own Lara Sukhtian noted (in one dispatch on the subject, but not in another):

Israeli security said she had been treated at an Israeli hospital after the accident, a humanitarian gesture Israel makes because its medical facilities are better than those in Gaza. She was to make another trip to an Israeli hospital on Monday for further treatment - but planned to blow herself up there instead, the Israelis said.

Posted by at June 21, 2005 12:00 PM