Widespread Targeting of Journalists in Gaza Amid Israeli Attacks

The International Criminal Court and the international community must ensure accountability for those responsible for the deaths of journalists.

Sunday, November 26, 2023
Widespread Targeting of Journalists in Gaza Amid Israeli Attacks

Mwatana for Human Rights emphatically highlights the alarming plight faced by journalists in Gaza due to the relentless targeting by the Israeli army. Since October 7, 2023, at least 53 media professionals have been tragically killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Simultaneously, four Israeli journalists lost their lives on October 7 during a military operation by armed Palestinian factions in the Gaza envelope, as reported by BBC. Mwatana urgently calls upon the International Criminal Court and the international community to hold the perpetrators accountable for the journalists' deaths and to terminate the prevailing policy of impunity.

The devastating Israeli attacks on Gaza have resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians, predominantly women and children. Among the casualties were family members of journalists, including the esteemed Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh.

Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, emphasized, "The targeting and intimidation of journalists and media outlets in Gaza aim to suppress the truth and silence its witnesses. These egregious acts are war crimes demanding absolute accountability and legal deterrence. The role of the International Criminal Court must be activated promptly."

On November 2, an Israeli airstrike claimed the life of journalist Mohammed Abu Hatab, a Palestine TV correspondent, along with 11 members of his family in their Khan Younis home in southern Gaza. Just an hour before his tragic demise, the 52-year-old Abu Hatab was seen on Palestine TV.

Among the casualties covering the conflict, Reuters cameraman Issam Abdullah was killed in southern Lebanon on October 13 due to two shells that also injured six of his colleagues from AFP, Reuters, and Al Jazeera. An investigation by Reporters Without Borders revealed that the shells were fired from an area east of the journalists' location, near the Israeli border.

As of October 28, 2023, Israeli attacks have completely or partially destroyed more than 50 media offices, as per Reporters Without Borders. During a ground military operation in northern Gaza on October 28, the Israeli army imposed a comprehensive media blackout, citing an inability to "ensure the protection of their journalists in Gaza," according to AFP and Reuters.

In the most recent attack, Al-Mayadeen reporter Farah Omar and accompanying cameraman Rabih Al-Me'mari fell victim to an Israeli airstrike targeting them on Tuesday, November 21, in Tayr Harfa in southern Lebanon.

This recurring cycle of violence stems from Israel's prolonged impunity. The deliberate targeting of journalists working in conflict zones, who do not play a direct role in military operations, constitutes a blatant violation of international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Journalists are classified under categories warranting special protection according to international humanitarian law regulations, and any form of targeting against them is strictly prohibited. 

Reporters Without Borders has filed a case before the International Criminal Court to investigate "war crimes committed against journalists during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza," underscoring these journalists as victims of attacks constituting, at the very least, "war crimes."

This isn't the first time journalists have fallen victim while covering the conflict in Palestine, targeted by Israeli forces. However, the scale of journalist casualties this time is extremely shocking, portraying a tragic reality within professional sectors committed to minimizing casualties and revealing truths. The Committee to Protect Journalists has stated that Israeli investigations resemble 'black boxes' due to their prolonged duration and secrecy. There are no documented policies outlining the investigative procedures. Since Israel began assessing such cases in 2014, assessments have been carried out in five incidents involving journalists' deaths, yet none resulted in a criminal investigation.

Mwatana for Human Rights calls upon the Israeli forces to take tangible measures to protect civilians in Gaza, including journalists, and to immediately cease targeting them. Mwatana also urges an end to the attempts to suppress truth by intimidating them and demands the removal of all restrictions imposed on media workers.