A strike by an Israeli tank crew killed a Reuters journalist and injured six other reporters in Lebanon in October as they were covering the war between Israel and Hamas, according to an investigation by the news service.
Reuters published its findings into the killing of Issam Abdallah, 37, on Oct. 13 as he was filming about half a mile from the Israeli border in Lebanon. The wire service spoke with dozens of government and security officials and analyzed footage from the scene after two tank shells were fired 37 seconds apart. Shrapnel from an explosive device was identified as the piece of a tail fin from a tank round by an independent research institute in The Hague.
“The evidence we now have, and have published today, is that an Israeli tank crew killed our colleague Issam Abdallah,” Alessandra Galloni, the editor-in-chief of Reuters, said in a statement. “We condemn Issam’s killing and we call on Israel to explain how this could have happened and to hold to account those responsible for his death and the wounding of our colleagues.”
“Issam was a brilliant and passionate journalist who was much loved in this newsroom.”
Abdallah and the other six reporters, from Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera and Reuters, were wearing blue flak jackets and helmets, most of which had the word “Press” in white lettering written on them.
When presented with the evidence by Reuters, the Israel Defense Forces issued a terse comment: “We don’t target journalists,” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, the IDF’s international spokesperson, told the wire service.
At least 63 journalists and media workers have been killed since the war began ― 56 Palestinian, four Israeli and three Lebanese, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Dozens more have been injured or arrested.
Reuters’ findings were bolstered by another investigation by Human Rights Watch on Thursday, which said the journalists were not working near areas with active fighting. HRW’s report found the tank’s attacks had “directly targeted them,” saying the incident appeared to be a war crime.
“This is not the first time that Israeli forces have apparently deliberately attacked journalists, with deadly and devastating results,” Ramzi Kaiss, the group’s Lebanon researcher, said in a statement. “Those responsible need to be held to account, and it needs to be made clear that journalists and other civilians are not lawful targets.”
Amnesty International also published its own report on Thursday, saying it, too, believed the attack should be investigated as a war crime. The group’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, Aya Majzoub, said it had uncovered “chilling evidence pointing to an attack on a group of international journalists who were carrying out their work by reporting on hostilities.”
Galloni said Thursday that journalists needed to be safeguarded during the conflict.
“At Reuters we report the news of the world with accuracy, integrity, independence and freedom from bias,” she said. “It is critically important that our journalists are able to do so, safely.”