Security minister Tom Tugenhadt took a subtle dig at the BBC’s coverage of the war in Gaza as he appeared on the broadcaster this morning.
The corporation has come under fire for its initial reporting of the huge blast at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City which left around 500 people dead.
A post on X (formerly Twitter) by BBC World said: “Hundreds of people have been killed in an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.”
Israel has denied responsibility for the carnage, which it has blamed on a misfiring rocket by the Hamas militant group.
US president Joe Biden was due to meet with Arab leaders in the region, but those talks were cancelled in the wake of the blast.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast this morning, Tugenhandt was asked by presenter Charlie Stayt who the UK government thought was responsible for the hospital deaths.
He said: “We’ve seen some pretty wild speculation and some rushing to headlines in recent days.
“This is first and foremost a human tragedy. We know that some people have been killed there and we also know that the Al-Ahli hospital was offering a service to Palestinian civilians that is incredibly needed at the moment.
“However, the reporting that we’ve seen in recent days has already had a major cost. President Biden was due to meet with Arab leaders, including probably Mahmood Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and to begin the conversations that could have led to peace.
“Those talks have been stopped - perhaps only pushed back, we hope - and that in itself as a cost. But we’ve also seen the destruction of a synagogue in Tunisia and sadly we’ve seen raising tensions in the United Kingdom.
“This is one of those moments where wild speculation, fast and loose reporting, has real costs and consequences and I’m not going to engage in it.”
Charlie Stayt replied: “I understand entirely the point you’re making.”
The awkward exchange came as Rishi Sunak arrived in Israel for talks with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The PM, who will also meet with other regional leaders in his two-day visit, described the hospital blast as “a watershed moment” in the conflict, which was sparked by Hamas’s terror attack on Israel on October 7 which left more than 1,400 dead.