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Note: This post has been updated to reflect a correction. See below.
A Hamas rocket killed the son of a Gaza-based BBC reporter, not an Israeli airstrike as originally reported by many Western media outlets, the United Nations has confirmed.
Multiple news outlets, most notably the Washington Post, initially claimed the Israelis were responsible for the child’s death despite conflicting evidence about the incident.
However, a recently issued U.N. report discredits the story and sensationalistic photo of the dead Palestinian baby that the Post published on the front page of its Nov. 15, 2012, edition with the following caption: “Jihad Masharawi weeps as he holds the body of his 11-month-old son, Ahmad, at al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.”
Post spokeswoman Kristine Coratti did not have a comment on the new report and could not say if the Post would be running a correction in the coming days.
The U.N. human rights council investigated the incident and debunked this claim in its latest report, which will be formally presented by the body’s high commissioner on March 18.
“On 14 November, a woman, [an] 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel,” the report noted.
Some observers argued that the U.N. report was not referring to the case of Masharawi due to a factual error in the draft report that was later clarified.
However, a U.N. official familiar with the report confirmed to the Free Beacon early Monday that the report is referring to Masharawi.
“It is indeed the case of the death of family members of the BBC reporter,” said the official. “Our findings indicate that it may have been a rocket falling short.”
Masharawi’s son and sister-in-law were killed after a projectile struck the family’s home during Israel’s most recent war in Gaza, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense. Israel launched the operation after Hamas bombarded civilians with hundreds of rockets.
The Post and other outlets originally attributed the attack to Israel even though the Israeli Defense Forces maintained that it had not carried out any operation in that area.
The photo, which showed Masharawi crying while cradling his dead child in his arms, prompted a furious response from Israel’s critics.
Some analysts and commentators noted at the time that the photos of Masharawi’s home revealed little damage, indicating that it was not likely Israel was to blame.
The house was shown to be fully intact except for a hole in the roof—damage similar to that caused by Hamas’ crudely built rockets, which cause comparable destruction to Israeli homes.
Soon after the photo hit the front page, the anti-Israel group Human Rights Watch released a report explicitly blaming Israel for the child’s death.
News outlets including the Post dismissed Israel’s denial, however.
The Post defended its use of the photo after pro-Israel media observers cried foul.
Former Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton defended the paper’s actions, claiming that the photo “moves the viewer toward a larger truth.”
Pexton said, “the bomb was dropped by Israelis,” and claimed the Post conducted its own investigation into the incident.
“Post staff then authenticated and verified the facts behind the Associated Press photo,” he wrote. “The dead baby was real. The bombing was real.”
Pexton also claimed that the Hamas rockets, which force thousands of Israelis to live under fire, “are like bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind.”
Oren later penned an op-ed in the Post accusing it and other media outlets of “falling for Hamas’s media manipulation.”
Update, March 12, 8:07 p.m. EST: The original version of this post reported that “Washington Post blogger Max Fisher, who also blamed Israel for Masharawi’s death, did not respond to a Washington Free Beacon request for comment asking if he would run a correction to his story.” However, those requests for comment were inadvertently sent to the email address of Post writer Marc Fisher, who did not respond. Max Fisher has since addressed the photo controversy here. We regret the error.