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Al Jazeera Decries Death of Two Journalists in Israeli Strike

Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh holds the hand of his son Hamza, who also worked for Al Jazeera and who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Jan. 7, 2024.
Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh holds the hand of his son Hamza, who also worked for Al Jazeera and who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Jan. 7, 2024.

Al Jazeera has condemned the death of two journalists, one of them a freelance for the network, whom authorities in Hamas-run Gaza say were killed in an Israeli airstrike while traveling in their car covering the war near Rafah.

Mustafa Thuria was a video stringer for Agence France-Presse. Hamza Al-Dahdouh was Al Jazeera’s stringer and the son of the TV network’s bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Al-Dahdouh. A third freelancer, Hazem Rajab, was wounded in the strike.

Earlier in the war, Wael Al-Dahdouh lost his wife, two other children and a grandson — and was nearly killed himself.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera network said in a statement the latest killings demonstrate “without a doubt the Israeli forces’ determination to continue these brutal attacks against journalists and their families, aiming to discourage them from performing their mission, violating the principles of freedom of the press.”

Al Jazeera urged “the International Criminal Court, governments, human rights organizations and the United Nations to hold Israel accountable for its heinous crimes” and demanded “an end to the targeting and killing of journalists.”

Israel’s military has not commented on the strike but in a statement on December 16, responding to the death of another Al Jazeera journalist in Gaza, the army said, "The IDF has never, and will never, deliberately target journalists."

In the 10 first weeks of the war in Gaza, 77 journalists and media workers had been killed in the enclave, the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media watchdog, said. Seventy were Palestinians, four were Israelis and three were Lebanese.

“The concentration of journalists killed in the Israel-Gaza war is unparalleled in CPJ’s history and underscores how grave the situation is for press on the ground,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg in a statement earlier.

A video posted on an Al Jazeera-linked YouTube channel showed Wael Al-Dahdouh crying next to his son's body and holding his hand. Later, after his son's burial, he said in televised remarks that journalists in Gaza would keep doing their job.

"All the world needs to see what is happening here," he said.

Israeli forces have completed dismantling Hamas' "military framework" in northern Gaza, killing about 8,000 militants in that area and seizing tens of thousands of weapons and millions of documents there, military spokesperson said Saturday.

Israeli soldiers take up positions near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, Jan.7, 2024.
Israeli soldiers take up positions near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, Jan.7, 2024.

Israeli Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in an online briefing that Israel is now focused on breaking up Hamas in the central and southern Gaza Strip, acknowledging this will take time.

Hagari said Israel’s military effort in eradicating Hamas from central and southern Gaza will be done differently than it was done in the north, noting that “the refugee camps in the central Gaza strip are crowded and full of terrorists,” while stating the elaborate network of underground tunnels in the south of Gaza are labor intensive to destroy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Saturday the war against Hamas “must not be stopped” until Israel achieves three main objectives: “eliminate Hamas, return our hostages and ensure that Gaza will no longer be a threat to Israel.”

Meanwhile, Israel and Hezbollah continued trading fire Saturday across Lebanon’s border, in one of the heaviest days of cross-border fighting in recent weeks.

Air raid sirens blared across northern Israel as Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group said it launched more than 60 rockets at an Israeli military base. Israel said it retaliated by striking a "terrorist cell responsible for the launches." It also said it struck several Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, including military sites and "terrorist infrastructure." Hezbollah said five of its fighters had been killed in Israeli strikes.

Hezbollah said in a statement, its strikes against Israel were an “initial response” to the assassination of one of Hamas’ leaders, Saleh al-Arouri, earlier in the week. Hezbollah believes Israel is responsible for the strike that killed Arouri, but Israel has not claimed responsibility.

Hamas and security officials in the region attributed the strike that killed Saleh al-Arouri to an Israeli drone, although Israel has not directly acknowledged this.

Hezbollah — like Hamas, an Iran-backed militant group designated as a terror organization by the United States and others — has been firing rockets across Israel's northern border since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, are on separate trips to the region. They each are trying to contain a spillover from the three-month-old war into Lebanon, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Red Sea shipping lanes, where Iranian backed Houthi rebels based in Yemen have been attacking commercial vessels linked to Israel, in what the group has called a revenge campaign on Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

In a video message shared by Hamas on Saturday, the head of Hamas' political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said he hopes Blinken will be "more focused" on ending Israeli "aggression" in Gaza during the top diplomat's multi-country visit to the region.

Israel Defense Forces dropped new flyers on neighborhoods in central Gaza on Saturday, urging Palestinians to evacuate. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled to southern Gaza to seek refuge from the fighting, but the fighting has followed them there.

Israel launched strikes early Saturday on the southern Gaza cities of Rafah and Khan Younis.

At Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, relief to the Palestinian population has been reduced to a crawl, as lines of hundreds of trucks carrying aid have been waiting for weeks to enter Gaza.

Two U.S. senators said Saturday after a visit to the border that a warehouse full of goods rejected by Israeli inspectors holds everything from water testing equipment to medical kits for delivering babies.

Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Jeff Merkley pointed to a cumbersome process that is slowing relief in the besieged territory — largely from what they say are seemingly arbitrary rejections by Israeli inspectors of aid cargos carrying vital humanitarian equipment.

Almost the entire population in Gaza depends on the humanitarian aid from across the border with Egypt for their survival. One in four Palestinians in Gaza is starving, and the rest face crisis levels of hunger, according to the U.N. More than 85% of Gaza’s people have been driven from their homes by Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives.

The Middle East has been a tinderbox since Iran-backed Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people while taking about 240 people hostages, Israel said. Some of the hostages have been released, though about 130 are still being held in Gaza.

Israel's response has killed more than 22,600 Palestinians, a large percentage of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Neither side differentiates between combatants and civilians.

Some material for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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