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Reuters, AFP Say Israeli Tank Responsible for Deadly Attack on Journalists


FILE - Reuters visuals journalist Issam Abdallah holds a kitten while posing for a picture in Saaideh, Lebanon, July 4, 2023.
FILE - Reuters visuals journalist Issam Abdallah holds a kitten while posing for a picture in Saaideh, Lebanon, July 4, 2023.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse have each published an investigation into an October attack in southern Lebanon that killed a journalist and injured six others, saying their findings indicate the group was hit by Israeli tank rounds.

Each of the media organizations worked with outside experts to review video recordings, satellite images, witness testimony and munitions fragments, concluding that the rounds were 120-mm tank rounds used only by the Israeli military.

The attack happened Oct. 13 as the journalists gathered near the Lebanese border village of Alma al-Chaab to capture video of nearby areas where there had been cross-border clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters.

Reuters and AFP said the journalists were clearly identified as members of the press wearing flak jackets and helmets.

An initial tank round struck the group, followed quickly by a second, the news agencies said. Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah was killed, while two of his Reuters colleagues and an AFP journalist were among those hurt.

At the U.S. State Department on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his deepest condolences for the loss when asked about the attack by a Reuters journalist.

"As someone who actually started his career as a journalist, this is something that's near and dear to my heart," Blinken said.

He added that it was important that this attack be fully and thoroughly investigated.

"My understanding is that Israel has initiated such an investigation, and it would be important to see that investigation come to a conclusion, and to see the results of that investigation," he said.

“We condemn Issam’s killing,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement. “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 Christina Assi of the AFP, our colleagues Thaier Al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh, and the three other journalists. Issam was a brilliant and passionate journalist, who was much loved at Reuters."

Reuters quoted Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, the Israel Defense Forces international spokesman, as saying, "We don't target journalists."

AFP Global News Director Phil Chetwynd called on Israel to give a clear explanation of what happened.

“The targeting of a group of journalists who were clearly identified as media is both inexplicable and unacceptable," Chetwynd said.

Human Rights Watch conducted its own investigation into the attack and said Thursday its findings “indicate that the journalists were well removed from ongoing hostilities, clearly identifiable as members of the media, and had been stationary for at least 75 minutes before they were hit by two consecutive strikes.”

HRW said there was no evidence of a military target near where the journalists were working. The group said the strikes “were apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, which is a war crime.”

Amnesty International also reviewed the attack, concluding it was “likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime.”

“Those responsible for Issam Abdallah’s unlawful killing and the injuring of six other journalists must be held accountable,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Aya Majzoub said in a statement. “No journalist should ever be targeted or killed simply for carrying out their work. Israel must not be allowed to kill and attack journalists with impunity. There must be an independent and impartial investigation into this deadly attack.”

Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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