Relatives, Hamas reject Israel army claims against slain journalists

AFP , Thursday 11 Jan 2024

Family members and Palestinian militant group Hamas on Thursday rejected claims by the Israeli army that two Al Jazeera journalists it killed in a Gaza air strike were "terror operatives".

Wael Al-Dahdouh
Al Jazeera s bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Al-Dahdouh (C) stands with his daughter by the body of his son, Hamza Wael Dahdouh, a journalist Al Jazeera, who was killed in an air strike in Gaza on 7 January 2024. AFP

 

Hamza Wael Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuria, who also worked as a video stringer for AFP and other news organisations, were killed on Sunday while they were on an assignment for the Qatar-based channel in the city of Rafah.

On Wednesday the Israeli occupation army said the two men were "members of Gaza-based terrorist organisations actively involved in attacks against IDF (army) forces".

"Prior to the strike, the two operated drones, posing an imminent threat to IDF troops," the army said.

Hamza's father Wael al-Dahdouh, who is Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief, rejected the claims.

"These are fabrications. It is clear that they (the army) are attempting to defend themselves, justify what is happening and derail the issue," Dahdouh told AFP.

"It (army) wants to give excuses. This is clear (even) to children here," he said, adding that Hamza had been an experienced journalist.

"In this war, journalists can barely do their work, given that they are homeless and displaced," Dahdouh said.

Two of Dahdouh's nephews, Ahmed, a 30-year-old electronics engineer, and Muhammad, a 26-year-old school accountant, were killed in another Israeli air strike on Rafah on Monday, relatives and the health ministry in the territory said.

Hamas's press office also rejected the army's claims against the two journalists, saying Israel "creates false pretexts to justify its massacres and crimes against Palestinian civilians and journalists".

Thuria, in his 30s, has contributed to AFP since 2019 and has also worked with other international media outlets.

He and Hamza were killed when their car was struck by rockets while they were on their way back from an assignment for Al Jazeera.

Thuria's cousin Muhammad Thuria said the army claim was a "false accusation". He said Mustafa used to operate a drone for taking photos and videos which he sold to local and international news agencies.

"He was an ambitious and professional young man who was known among journalists for his work."

When asked by AFP on Thursday about the kind of drones the two men were using and the nature of the threat they posed to Israeli troops, the army said: "We have nothing to add".

The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed across the border into Israel in the Al-Aqsa Flood operation on October 7 which left some 1,140 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas and has kept up a relentless bombing of Gaza, which the health ministry says has killed at least 23,469 people, two-thirds of them women and children.

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