Press Freedom Watchdog: Lebanon Journalists' Attack Deliberate, Not Accidental

Published: 01 November 2023

Issam AbdallahReuters photojournalist Issam Abdallah killed in the Lebanon strike. (Photo: Issam Abdallah/X, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

The recent killing of Reuters photojournalist Issam Abdallah in Lebanon, along with the injury of other journalists, was not an accident but a deliberate act, according to the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

On October 13 in Alma el-Chaab, seven journalists had positioned themselves to cover clashes between Lebanese Hezbollah forces and the Israeli army. Their vehicles, clearly marked as "press," were deliberately targeted with artillery.

The Israeli army issued an apology for the incident and promised to investigate.

RSF published its initial investigation findings on Sunday, revealing that the two strikes, separated by approximately thirty seconds, precisely hit the location where the journalists were stationed.

The first strike resulted in Abdallah's death, while Christina Assi, a correspondent from Agence France-Presse (AFP), suffered severe injuries. The second strike targeted a nearby Al Jazeera vehicle, causing injuries to additional colleagues.

After analyzing video footage and consulting with ballistic experts, RSF determined that both strikes originated from the east, in the direction of the Israeli border. This strongly suggests a deliberate act of precise targeting, RSF said.

The second strike, according to RSF's ballistic experts, was more powerful than the first, causing significant damage to the Al Jazeera vehicle and injuring journalists Carmen Joukhadar, Elie Brakhya, and AFP's Dylan Collins. The force of the explosion was powerful enough to rotate the vehicle approximately 90 degrees from its original position.

RSF's investigation also revealed that the journalists had been clearly visible on a hill for over an hour, wearing recognizable press clothing, including helmets and bulletproof vests labeled as "press."

Furthermore, RSF's investigation uncovered a prior attack on Al Jazeera journalists in the village of Dhayra, in southern Lebanon, just five days earlier. Witnesses reported an Israeli helicopter passing over them before a missile struck their vehicle, which, like the one targeted on October 13, also displayed the word "press."