LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for an independent investigation into Israel’s potential targeting of two Gaza journalists who were killed on Monday.
An Israeli drone strike killed Al Jazeera reporter Hamza Al-Dahdouh, son of Al-Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh, along with a freelance videographer who worked for Agence France Press, Mustafa Thuraya.
At least one other person was injured in the strike, which occurred outside of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, according to news reports.
CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Sherif Mansour, called for an independent inquiry into the strike, saying: “The killings of journalists Hamza Al-Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya must be independently investigated, and those behind their deaths must be held accountable.
He added: “The continuous killings of journalists and their family members by Israeli army fire must end: Journalists are civilians, not targets.”
The media watchdog reported that since the onset of the conflict, at least 79 journalists and media workers have lost their lives, marking its highest casualty count in a war over more than 30 years of record-keeping.
Persistent allegations of harassment, detention and obstruction of journalists, coupled with accusations of deliberate targeting, have been leveled against Israel.
In December, separate investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reuters and AFP focused on the Oct. 13 strike in southern Lebanon that killed Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and left six other journalists injured.
The findings indicated a probable intentional assault by the Israel Defense Forces, targeting civilians, with Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, warning that such attacks violate international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes.
“Israel says it does not target journalists. It needs to explain whether it used one of its drones for a precision attack on these two journalists and why it launched strikes on those like Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, who was clearly wearing press insignia and away from direct fighting,” Mansour said.
The Israel-Hamas conflict has taken a severe toll on the media community, with numerous journalists and family members losing their lives since the conflict began on Oct. 7.
Wael Al-Dahdouh, according to a statement from Al-Jazeera and Politico, has lost five family members in Israeli attacks, including his wife, daughter, son and grandson.
Sherif Mansour acknowledged the sacrifices made by the Al-Dahdouh family and their colleagues in Gaza, saying: “The Al-Dahdouh family and their journalist colleagues in Gaza are rewriting what it means to be a journalist today with immensely brave and never-seen-before sacrifices.”
On Sunday, an IDF spokesperson said that the two journalists were traveling in a vehicle alongside a terror operative operating a drone “in a way that put IDF forces at risk.”
Witnesses told AFP that two rockets were fired at the car — one hit the front of the vehicle and the other hit Al-Dahdouh, who was sitting next to the driver.
Thuraya and Al-Dahdouh had been tasked with filming the aftermath of a strike on a house in Rafah and their car was hit while they were returning, AFP correspondents said.
In a statement, Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately targeting the reporters and vowed to take “all legal measures to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.”