A Reporters Without Borders investigation released Sunday concluded that Reuters video journalist Issam Abdallah and a group of his colleagues were intentionally targeted in southern Lebanon earlier this month in a pair of strikes launched from the direction of the Israeli border.
The probe, which does not explicitly accuse the Israeli military of launching the October 13 strikes that killed Abdallah and injured other journalists, found that it is unlikely the reporters were mistaken for combatants given that they were wearing helmets and vests marked “press” and had been in plain view for more than an hour.
The journalists were in the Lebanese village of Alma el-Chaab covering exchanges of fire between the Israeli military and Hezbollah when they came under attack.
Reporters Without Borders, known internationally as Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), found that roughly an hour before the two strikes hit “the exact spot where seven journalists were standing,” an Al Jazeera reporter interviewed in a video analyzed by RSF “spotted an Israeli helicopter flying over the area and was able to spot the journalists.”
Additionally, a Lebanese journalist stationed roughly 100 meters away from his colleagues told RSF that an Israeli Apache helicopter flew over the area seconds before the pair of strikes, the first of which killed Abdallah. The second strike, which RSF found was even more powerful, blew up an Al Jazeera vehicle and injured several journalists in the vicinity just 30 seconds later.
“Two strikes in the same place in such a short space of time (just over 30 seconds), from the same direction, clearly indicate precise targeting,” RSF said.
🔴 RSF releases the findings of its investigation into the death of @Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah in Lebanon, on the border with Israel: even though Abdallah and his colleagues were clearly identifiable as journalists, their vehicle was deliberately targeted. 👇 pic.twitter.com/Y8KeAqk8bg
— RSF (@RSF_inter) October 29, 2023
Abdallah is among the dozens of journalists who have been killed in Israel, Gaza, and Lebanon since October 7, the day Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel. The Israeli military responded with a massive bombing campaign and ground raids in the occupied Gaza Strip that have killed more than 8,000 people and sparked a humanitarian catastrophe.
In response to the attack that killed Abdallah and seriously injured AFP correspondent Christina Assi, the Israeli military said it was “very sorry” for Abdallah’s death and would investigate.
Israeli forces have repeatedly been accused of targeting journalists and refusing to hold perpetrators to account. The United Nations released a report earlier this month concluding that the Israeli military used “lethal force without justification” when it killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last year. The Israeli government has refused to open a criminal investigation into the incident.
Reuters said in a statement Sunday that it is reviewing RSF’s findings and reiterated its call for Israeli authorities to “conduct a swift, thorough, and transparent probe into what happened” to Abdallah and his colleagues.
“And we call upon all other authorities with information about the incident to provide it,” Reuters added. “We will continue to fight for the rights of all journalists to report the news in the public interest free of harassment or harm, wherever they are.”
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