Nets Ignore Gaza University’s Hamas Links, CBS: Israel ‘Jeopardizing’ Graduation for Students

Within the first few days of Israel’s campaign in Gaza, the Israeli military struck the Islamic University of Gaza, charging that the school served as a weapons research facility for Hamas. But while CNN, FNC and MSNBC all at some point reported on the school’s links to Hamas, CBS and NBC ignored the terrorist group’s connection in all its reports, while ABC vaguely noted that it was popular with Hamas students while still calling it a "non-military target." CBS, which had initially ignored the strike when it happened in late December, ran a report on the Friday, January 30, CBS Evening News in which correspondent Alan Pizzey, instead of informing viewers of the school’s reported role in terrorism, seemed more concerned that the damage would delay students from graduating, and relayed that "even the Islamic University" was bombed, suggesting it was an unreasonable target. After beginning the story focusing on a college-aged Palestinian man who was collecting explosive material to build bombs for revenge against Israel, Pizzey continued: "It will go in Qassam rockets – payback, the bomb maker says, for the destruction that has been part of his life since birth. Even the Islamic University was pounded by airstrikes, putting students' chances of graduating in jeopardy."

Then came an anti-Israel soundbite from one female student, named Nasser Barakat: "It's clear for us they want to attack everything, single thing in our life and every place in Gaza in order to destroy the whole community – not only the fighters, but the whole community."

By contrast, on December 29, during the 9:00 hour of MSNBC News Live, correspondent Tom Aspell reported: "Starting in the early hours of this morning, [the Israelis] attacked a building belonging to the Islamic University inside the Gaza Strip. The Israelis saying that the Hamas activists had been using it as a laboratory to develop weapons."

On the December 28 Fox Report, FNC host Greg Jarrett linked the university to Hamas, and noted that the attack happened after midnight when there would likely be few casualties. Jarrett: "Israeli warplanes bombing a very important cultural symbol in Gaza, and this is significant because Islamic University is believed to be one of the centers of Hamas power in Gaza." Jarrett soon added: "The bombs continued into the early evening and late evening, attacking Islamic University, but it was after midnight when the bombs hit the university, so it may actually have been largely empty."

On the December 29 Fox Report, Jarrett relayed a report by Reuters which seemed to suggest that only one building of the university was hit. Jarrett: "The Reuters News Service reporting that Israeli warplanes fired missiles at government offices and a building that belongs to the Islamic University, and medical workers say 10 people are dead. We have not yet confirmed that, but we do know that hundreds have died since Israel started hammering the Gaza Strip several days ago."

A January 20 article in the New York Times, titled "Many Civilian Targets, but One Core Question Among Gazans: Why?" by Sabrina Tavernise, notes: "An Israeli military official, citing intelligence reports and speaking on the condition of anonymity because of military rules, said that the labs functioned as research and development facilities for Hamas's homemade Qassam rockets, and that a large number of people at the university were involved. The attack was precise, the official said, with the science building's being the only one that took a direct hit."

On NBC, a December 28 report by Martin Fletcher on the Nightly News did not mention the school’s Hamas connections, but Fletcher at least informed viewers that the strikes had come at night, presumably to reduce civilian casualties: "The Israelis attacked the Islamic University, which is a strategic, a moral and a cultural key point for Gaza, but the fact that the Israelis attacked at night means presumably, they knew there would be no students inside." The December 29 Today show only briefly mentioned the university’s targeting.

ABC’s Simon McGregor-Wood mentioned the bombing of the university on two occasions – once on the December 28 World News Sunday, and again the next night on World News with Charles Gibson. On the second night, McGregor-Wood noted that the school was "popular with Hamas students," but also claimed that it was a "non-military target."McGregor-Wood: "But the Israelis are hitting non-military targets as well. This was the Islamic University, popular with Hamas students."

On CNN’s morning newscast, the three-hour American Morning show, the attack on the Islamic University was mentioned three times on December 29 and once more on December 30, but the school’s Hamas connections were ignored. On the December 29 American Morning, during the 7:00 a.m. hour, anchor John Roberts suggested that bombing Islamic University was inconsistent with Israeli claims of "only targeting combatants." Roberts: "Israel says that it's only targeting combatants, but the attacks have hit the campus of an Islamic University and flattened a major prison."

But on CNN’s nearest equivalent to an evening newscast, the three-hour show The Situation Room, correspondent Jim Acosta did pass on Israeli charges that the school was used for weapon production, but he then followed up by reporting Hamas complaints that Israelis had attacked a mosque and a private home, without informing viewers that Hamas is known for hiding weapons in such locations. Acosta’s report, which ran twice on the December 29 The Situation Room, noted: "An Israeli F-16 dropped rockets on the Islamic University of Gaza. Israeli Defense Forces say that site has been used as a center for weapon research and development. But Hamas security sources say a mosque and a family home has also been hit by Israeli rockets. Palestinian medical officials say five children died in that attack."

MSNBC does not air shows that are equivalent to morning or evening newscasts – like NBC’s Today show or the NBC Nightly News – and FNC’s Fox and Friends did not mention Islamic University in the couple of days after the school was targeted.

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of stories cited above from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and MSNBC:

#From the December 28 World News Sunday:

SIMON MCGREGOR-WOOD: It's been another relentless day of Israeli airstrikes against Hamas targets, including in the last hour, against the Islamic University of Gaza. This is all designed to try and finally put an end to daily rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities in southern Israel."

#From the December 29 World News with Charles Gibson:

SIMON MCGREGOR-WOOD: Everything with a connection to Hamas in Gaza is now a target. The goal is to stop the rockets, all of them. In this Air Force video, planes strike at rocket launchers, at buildings where the rockets are stored and at trucks used to move them around. But the Israelis are hitting non-military targets as well. This was the Islamic university, popular with Hamas students. This used to be the home of the Hamas health minister. More than 1,400 injured Palestinians have swamped Gaza's struggling hospitals. And yet, despite all the strikes, the Hamas rockets keep coming. Over 50 today."

#From the January 30 CBS Evening News:

HARRY SMITH: President Obama today added more than $20 million to the international relief effort in Gaza, devastated and desperate after a three-week war with Israel. If the Israelis hoped the war would turn the people against Gaza's ruling party Hamas, they might want to see this. As Allen Pizzey reports, the top priority for many young people is returning the fire.

ALLEN PIZZEY: Their world has been blasted to bits; their options for the future are little better. Whatever path the children of Gaza choose is affected by war. Hamas provides one. And despite the fact that their equivalent of a PhD is what they term "martyrdom," the latest round of fighting is seen by many as a recruiting tool. Instead of turning the pages of a book, the fingers of a 22-year-old scoop what he says is C-4 explosive from an Israeli anti-tank mine. A collection of unexploded Israeli shells lined up in an olive grove are the tools of his trade. The man who collected these shells declined to be interviewed on camera, but said he hopes to recover up to 250 pounds of high explosive material from them and then, as he put it, it'll be sent back where it came from. It will go in Qassam rockets – payback, the bomb maker says, for the destruction that has been part of his life since birth. Even the Islamic University was pounded by airstrikes, putting students' chances of graduating in jeopardy.

NASSER BARAKAT, ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF GAZA STUDENT: It's clear for us they want to attack everything, single thing in our life and every place in Gaza in order to destroy the whole community, not only the fighters, but the whole community.

IYAD BAQLA, ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF GAZA STUDENT: By being an educated person, it's a gun itself, you know. So I prefer to be holding that gun, the knowledge gun.

PIZZEY: The students think that no outsider really understands them or this place.

REEM OMRAN, ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF GAZA STUDENT: To be honest, I'm looking forward to move from here because it's really dangerous to live anymore.

PIZZEY: Career choices here tend to be influenced by family circumstances, and, for many, revenge is a more likely path than education. Allen Pizzey, CBS News, Gaza.

#From the December 28, 2009 NBC Nightly News:

MARTIN FLETCHER: The Israelis attacked the Islamic University, which is a strategic, a moral and a cultural key point for Gaza, but the fact that the Israelis attacked at night means presumably, they knew there would be no students inside.

#From the December 29, 2009 Today show on NBC:

TOM ASPELL: Israeli air operations continue around the clock. There was no letup for Hamas this morning. Targets have included the Islamic University, a mosque, and Hamas government offices like the ministry of the interior. At least 300 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli offensive began Saturday. Among the latest victims, a family of five, including three children. This morning, Hamas fired back, killing an Israeli and wounding more than a dozen others with a missile launched at Ashkelon, north of the Gaza Strip. Israel says Hamas and its rockets are a terror machine which must be stopped.

#From the 6:00 a.m. hour of the December 29 American Morning on CNN:

JOHN ROBERTS: Well returning now to our breaking news right now, Israel could be preparing to take the fight onto the streets of Gaza. Its tanks are on the move as the fierce air assault continues now for a third day. The attacks aimed at forcing Hamas back into a cease-fire that flattened a major prison, tunnels and the campus of an Islamic university.

#From the 7:00 a.m. hour of the December 29 American Morning on CNN:

JOHN ROBERTS: Israel says that it's only targeting combatants, but the attacks have hit the campus of an Islamic University and flattened a major prison. Palestinian sources say the death toll has topped 300 with at least five children among the dead.

#From the 8:00 a.m. hour of the December 29 American Morning on CNN:

KIRAN CHETRY: And right now the fighting continues from the air. Israeli warplanes pounding the Palestinian territories, wiping out a prison, tunnels and part of an Islamic university. Palestinian medical sources say the death toll has now topped 300.

CHETRY LATER ADDED: Israeli troops and tanks growing in number along the Gaza strip as the fierce air assault escalates now to a third day. Some 300 air strikes since Saturday aimed forcing Hamas back into a cease-fire. The attacks have flattened a major prison, smuggling tunnels and hit the campus of an Islamic university, and it's also been deadly. More than 300 reportedly killed. The airstrikes also provoking outrage across the Arab world.

#From the 5:00 p.m. hour of the December 29 The Situation Room on CNN:

JIM ACOSTA: Hamas militants firing more rockets into Southern Israel. That's where a lot of the activity has been in the last 48 hours. That attack killing a second Israeli. Israel retaliated with more than 40 airstrikes on the Egyptian border with Southern Gaza, targeting some 40, get this, tunnels. This is important. Israel says those tunnels are used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into Gaza. And a lot of Americans are wondering how do those Hamas militants get those weapons into Gaza? The Israeli government says here's how. Now, the Israeli government approved a measure allowing some 7,000 Army Reservists to be called up. That is raising worries of a ground offensive in the region. Today, militants in Gaza fired more than 40 rockets and mortar shells into Southern Israel. Israel responded with more that be 20 air strikes into Gaza and one assault. An Israeli F-16 dropped rockets on, get this, the Islamic University of Gaza. Israeli Defense Forces refer to the site as a center for weapons research and development. But Hamas security sources say a mosque and a family home was also hit in these attacks, Israeli rockets. And Palestinian medical officials say five children died. So far, the death toll in this crisis, well over 300 people.

#From the 6:00 p.m. hour of the December 29 The Situation Room on CNN:

JIM ACOSTA: Today, militants in Gaza fired more than 40 rocket and mortar shells into Southern Israel. Israel has responded to that with 20 more air strikes in Gaza and one assault. The Arab street has been having a field day with this. An Israeli F-16 dropped rockets on the Islamic University of Gaza. Israeli Defense Forces say that site has been used as a center for weapon research and development. But Hamas security sources say a mosque and a family home has also been hit by Israeli rockets. Palestinian medical officials say five children died in that attack. So far, the death toll in this crisis well over 300 people.

#From the 7:00 a.m. hour of the December 30 American Morning on CNN:

JOHN ROBERTS: If we just zoom in here a little bit, the presidential guest house is one of the areas that was targeted by the Israeli Air Force. You can see the results there of the bombs. There of course have been other targets. A prison was hit in there, parts of the Islamic University. There were many security areas controlled by Hamas that have been hit as well as a hospital.

#From the December 28 Fox Report on FNC:

GREG JARRETT: Breaking now on Fox Report, smoke is rising in the nighttime sky from Islamic University. Israeli warplanes bombing a very important cultural symbol in Gaza, and this is significant because Islamic University is believed to be one of the centers of Hamas power in Gaza. And this is the latest target in day two of escalating violence between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza. And right now, signs of a possible truce look bleak. Both sides have been stepping up their attacks since a six-month cease-fire between them expired last week. Israel says it’s responding to rocket attacks aimed at its southern border. Palestinians claim Israeli airstrikes have now claimed more than 200 people and injured hundreds more.

...

What we can tell you, that the bombs continued into the early evening and late evening, attacking Islamic University, but it was after midnight when the bombs hit the university, so it may actually have been largely empty.

...

MIKE TOBIN: This as Israel continues the most punishing assault in the Gaza Strip since Gaza was conquered in the 1967 war. Let’s take you to live pictures inside the Gaza Strip. This is Islamic University, the latest target to get hit in this withering air assault into that narrow strip of land. Smoke is billing from the Islamic University. People can be seen dealing with the aftermath. No real word, no good figure as far as casualties coming out of this, the latest airstrike, plenty of chaos.

...

7:30 p.m.

JARRETT: We continue to follow this hour the breaking news out of the Middle East. Israel launching a second all-out assault on Palestinian militants. And just a short time ago, Israeli warplanes bombed the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip. As we mentioned at the top of the hour, the university is a very significant cultural symbol to Hamas. This is the second day of Israeli retaliation, an unprecedented 48 hours of bloodshed from both sides. Close to 300 Palestinians have been killed. Hundreds more have been injured. Israel says it is simply responding to the rocket attacks continuously [launched] by Palestinian militants.

#From the December 29 Fox Report on FNC:

7:30 p.m.

GREG JARRETT: New explosions rocking Gaza this hour. The Reuters News Service reporting that Israeli warplanes fired missiles at government offices and a building that belongs to the Islamic University, and medical workers say 10 people are dead. We have not yet confirmed that, but we do know that hundreds have died since Israel started hammering the Gaza Strip several days ago. The strikes began after Hamas militants broke a cease-fire and starting launching rockets into Israel.

#From the December 29 MSNBC News Live:

TOM ASPELL: Starting in the early hours of this morning, [the Israelis] attacked a building belonging to the Islamic University inside the Gaza Strip. The Israelis saying that the Hamas activists had been using it as a laboratory to develop weapons.