Israel killing Gaza journalists

Alaa Al-Mashharawi, Tuesday 2 Jan 2024

Palestinian journalists are demonstrating their resilience in the face of the Israeli army’s campaign of killing against them, reports Alaa Al-Mashharawi from Gaza.

Israel killing Gaza journalists

 

The cost of seeking the truth has become exorbitant in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip where journalists have become the targets of Israel’s gunfire in its war against Gaza.

The Israeli army has targeted 105 journalists along with their families during its aggression against the Gaza Strip over the last three months. Journalists have been killed, and their families, cars, houses, and workplaces have been bombed, sometimes leaving no traces of the horrific atrocities behind.

Since the outbreak of the Israeli war on Gaza, not a day has passed without the killing of at least one Palestinian journalist, making the period a particularly painful one in international press history.

The Palestinian Press Syndicate has documented hundreds of crimes and major violations against journalists and media outlets in the West Bank and Gaza, including the killing of 105 journalists and media workers, the disappearance of seven journalists, the injury of 100 media employees, the bombing of 66 family homes belonging to journalists, and the destruction of 67 journalist offices.

Some 25 local radio stations have seen their work seriously disrupted by the war, with three media outlets either closed or restricted and 45 journalists arrested by the Israeli army, the majority placed in administrative detention.

In a statement, the syndicate expressed its admiration for journalists who persist in their work amidst the threats of death and brutality. It emphasised that the truth would prevail and that the voice of Palestine would remain resounding, ultimately prevailing over the machinery of violence.

The syndicate said that it is committed to providing support for the continuation of the journalists’ work in the Gaza Strip, ensuring that the truth of Israel’s crimes is reported to the wider world and leading the international effort to halt its genocidal war.

It is protesting against the targeting of journalists and is urgently securing protection for them. It stressed that it aims to hold Israel accountable through the international courts for its actions.

Deputy Head of the Palestinian Press Syndicate Tahseen Al-Astal told Al-Ahram Weekly that the statement made by the US State Department Spokesperson claiming that there was no evidence of Israel deliberately targeting journalists in the war on Gaza was additional proof of US complicity in crimes against the Palestinian people.

The statement was a reprehensible attempt to propagate the false narrative of the Israeli army, which is contradicted by the facts on the ground. Israel is deeply concerned about the activities of journalists in the Gaza Strip, fearing the documentation of its horrendous crimes, he said.

“Some three months into the war, with no signs of cessation in sight, the crimes of the Israeli occupation against journalists are escalating. They are considered legitimate targets for assassination operations, as Israeli officials have said,” Al-Astal stated.

“Since the onset of the war, the Israeli government has given its army the green light to target journalists and anyone carrying a camera in the field. The Freedoms Committee of the Press Syndicate considers this to be the targeting of truth seekers,” he added.

Israel fears a temporary humanitarian truce in Gaza because it is concerned about the entry of foreign journalists into the Strip. Former head of the Captive and Missing Persons Division at the Mossad Rami Igra told Israel Radio that allowing the foreign press into Gaza might expose extensive destruction akin to the bombing of the German city of Dresden in World War II.

He said that this could lead the international community to compel Israel to halt the war.

This concern is reflected in Israel’s deliberate targeting of journalists and their families, such as Al-Jazeera correspondent and Gaza Office Director Wael Al-Dahdouh, who was targeted along with his family in the house they had moved to after being displaced from the central Gaza Strip.

The attack resulted in the killing of Al-Dahdouh’s wife, son, daughter, and grandson.

 

FEARS FOR LIFE: Photographer Amgad Al-Fayoumi, who works for various international media outlets, has expressed deep concerns for his life and the lives of his family. He said that he and his colleagues fear the targeting of their houses and retaliation against their families.

He told the Weekly that the targeting of journalists by the Israeli army has not deterred him from doing his job, adding that he remains committed to covering developments and documenting Israel’s horrific crimes.

He said that his family, which used to live in the Al-Tuffah district, has been displaced four times. Now they are living in a rented house in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Since the war erupted, Al-Fayoumi said he has barely spent three days with his family, being busy documenting the most violent aggression ever carried out by Israel against Gaza.

“The Israeli army targeted my media company, Green, which I founded a year ago in the Al-Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City, and destroyed all my equipment and studios. This had cost me more than $100,000,” Al-Fayoumi said.

Al-Fayoumi has lost many of his fellow journalists, most notably Bilal Gadallah, whom the Israeli army killed by bombing his car in the Zaytoun neighbourhood of southern Gaza. Israel wants “to intimidate photographers to compel them to stay away, so that its crimes remain without witnesses, evidence, and documentation,” he said.

“We understood the dangers we were about to meet when Israel targeted our offices on the first day of the war to prevent us from taking out our equipment. This affected our work, as we did not find any place other than the vicinity of the Al-Shifa Hospital where we could be present.”

“We endured terrifying nights and witnessed the killing of our colleagues. We were then forced to move to the vicinity of the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the middle of the Gaza Strip, while many colleagues were left in the vicinity of the Abu Youssef Al-Naggar Hospital. Even when the Israeli army stormed Khan Younis and approached the hospital, I decided to stay,” Al-Fayoumi said.

There are about 1,000 Palestinian journalists, including hundreds of photographers, registered with the Press Syndicate who work in the Gaza Strip, risking their lives in the field. Approximately 1,500 male and female journalists are covering the aggression due to the interest of the Arab and international media in the unfolding events. Arab and foreign journalists are not allowed to enter the Strip.

About 85 per cent of the journalists working in Gaza have been displaced from the north to the south of the Strip due to targeting by the Israeli army, particularly after 11 December when shells were fired near journalists’ tents in the vicinity of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the syndicate stated.

Al-Astal believes this was part of an Israeli plan to evacuate northern Gaza in order to commit crimes away from the sight of journalists.

Israel is carrying out“the largest-scale killings in the history of crimes against the press worldwide and within the shortest time frame,” the Press Syndicate said, adding that daily reports detailing these incidents are submitted to the UN, various international press and human rights organisations, and other press syndicates.

In collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists, the Palestinian Press Syndicate is gearing up to submit a third complaint to the International Criminal Court. This follows two complaints filed in 2022 against Israeli actions targeting journalists, their families, and their press and media headquarters.

Head of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Observatory Rami Abdou told aljazeera.net that Israel’s systematic targeting is intended to “impose a comprehensive media blackout on the entire Gaza Strip”.

Israel blatantly violates all international conventions and laws stipulating the protection of journalists, Abdou said, adding that “its strategy in its wars is always to target journalists to hide and silence the truth.”

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Irene Khan called for journalists to be protected in the Gaza Strip during a memorial in Mexico to honour journalists killed in the line of duty. The event paid tribute to Al-Jazeera journalists killed covering the war.

Khan expressed her solidarity with journalists in Gaza, noting that journalism has become one of the most perilous professions worldwide.

Mexico marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 22 November, honouring journalists killed in Mexico and other countries while doing their jobs under the slogan “killing the journalist won’t kill the story.”

The Mexican memorial included photographs of journalists killed by Israel in Gaza in recent years. Relatives of Mexican journalists who died while performing their jobs expressed their solidarity with the Gaza journalists.

 

ISRAELI CLAIMS: Israel has accused journalists working in Gaza of “collusion” with the resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Israeli Information Minister Shlomo Karhi tweeted criticisms of international media outlets including the New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, and Reuters on 9 November, accusing reporters from these outlets of “colluding” with the Palestinian resistance.

Israel has been attempting to accuse journalists of partiality and providing fabricated coverage of events in the Gaza Strip, despite the reality being much worse than anything depicted on television.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has stated that journalists in Gaza are “accomplices in crimes against humanity”. Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz has accused Gaza journalists of being spectators in the “theatre of massacre,” suggesting their indirect involvement in the war.

According to several observers, the Israeli army’s targeting of journalists in the Gaza Strip is an attempt to prevent the reporting of the massacres it commits against the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Press Syndicate said that one of the Israeli raids has resulted in the killing of the Dutch wife of journalist Khaled Al-Ashqar while her husband was covering the war.

The Syndicate’s statement also reported the killing of family members of photojournalist Ali Gadallah in the Al-Rimal district. The Israeli attacks led to the death of two of his brothers and three of his relatives, with some still trapped under the rubble of demolished buildings.

Gadallah documented his father’s body lying in the back seat of his car as he went alone to bury him.

The statement said that the reported incidents do not fully represent the truth, saying that the actual scale of the losses is likely to be much greater. It attributed the difficulty in obtaining the truth to the challenges of monitoring and documenting crimes committed by the Israeli army due to the continuous bombardments by Israel.

A large number of Gaza residents – dead or alive – remain trapped under the rubble of demolished buildings, it said.

The syndicate condemned efforts to isolate the Gaza Strip from the rest of the world by closing all entrances to it and cutting off electricity and the Internet. It urged international, Arab, and regional human rights and media organisations to address the terrorism exercised by the Israeli army, which aims to suppress the truth and violently eliminate the evidence of its heinous crimes.

In the first two weeks of the war – from 7 to 22 October – the Palestinian Press Syndicate documented the killing of 19 journalists and media workers.

In a statement released at that time, it reported that among the journalists killed in the Gaza Strip were Ibrahim Lafi from the Ain Media Foundation, Mohamed Garghoun from the Smart Media Agency, Salam Mima and Hossam Mubarak, broadcasters on the Al-Aqsa Channel, Abdel-Hadi Habib from the UN agency UNRWA TV, and photographer Roshdi Al-Sarraj, also from the Ain Media Foundation.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 January, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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