How Many People Were Killed on the Syrian Border?

A strange passage in The Times today:

By nightfall, the Syrian news agency SANA reported that 22 protesters had been killed and more than 350 had been wounded. Israeli officials said that they had no information on casualties but suggested that the Syrian figures were exaggerated.

Even so, it was the worst bloodshed in the Golan Heights since Israel and Syria fought a war there in 1973.

So, the official Syrian news agency, which has every reason to inflate the casualty figures, reports that 22 people were killed by Israeli troops. Israel says that it disputes the figures. The Israeli information operation is far from perfect, but it's much better than the Assad regime's information operation. So skepticism about these figures is certainly warranted.

And yet, the Times follows this ambiguous paragraph about the death toll with a declaration: "Even so, it was the worst bloodshed in the Golan Heights since Israel and Syria fought a war there in 1973." How does the Times know this? How does the Times know how many people died? The only source for the death toll is the Assad regime's propaganda apparatus.

Oh, and by the way, the Syrian regime is reported to have killed 38 pro-democracy protesters yesterday. This bit of information did not make the front page.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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