The International Press Institute (IPI) strongly condemns the killing of Reuters photojournalist Issam Abdallah in southern Lebanon in apparent Israeli missile fire and calls on Israel to carry out a swift, thorough, and transparent investigation into the incident.
Abdallah, 37, was killed near a village on the Israeli-Lebanese border on Friday where Israeli and Hezbollah militants have been exchanging fire, Reuters reported. Witnesses told the news agency that Abdallah was killed by missile fire that came from the direction of Israel and the Lebanese army said it had carried out a technical assessment confirming this account.
Reuters said over the weekend that it had “not established that the missiles had been fired by Israel or that Israel was intentionally targeting the journalists” but the news agency’s top leadership called on Israel’s military to conduct an investigation.
Two other Reuters journalists, Maher Nazeh and Thaer Al-Sudani, were wounded in the same incident. AFP reported that one of its photographers, Christina Assi, and a video journalist, Dylan Collins, also suffered injuries, as did Al Jazeera camperaperson Elie Brakhia and reporter Carmen Joukhadar. An Al Jazeera correspondent working in the area said the attack came from Israel and Al Jazeera Media Network said Israel was seeking to “silence the media by targeting journalists”.
Israel has a very poor track record investigating the killings of journalists by its military. The most flagrant example is the May 2022 killing of Al Jazeera correspondent and IPI World Press Freedom Hero Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Jenin despite wearing a press vest. Israel has refused to pursue a meaningful investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing and has not held those responsible to account.
“IPI is horrified by the killing of Issam Abdallah and we extend our deepest condolences to his friends and family as well as the rest of the Reuters team”, IPI Executive Director Frane Maroević said. “His killing is a tragic reminder of the dangers journalists face every day working courageously to bring the news to the world.”
“We join Reuters in calling on the Israeli military to carry out a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation into Issam’s killing. At the same time, given Israel’s abject history of failing to do so in similar cases, we also call on Israel’s international partners to put real pressure on the Israeli authorities for an effective investigation that results in consequences for those responsible.
“Israel – and all parties to the violence – must respect and protect the safety of journalists covering the ongoing events in the region. International law makes clear that journalists are considered civilians in situations of war and armed conflict. Journalists are never legitimate targets and any deliberate targeting of the press would amount to a war crime.”
“IPI is working to document all attacks on journalists as part of the Israel-Hamas war and we will continue to strongly advocate for accountability for such attacks.”
At least eight journalists have been killed since October 6 in the context of the Israel-Hamas war, nearly all in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, according to IPI monitoring.
A veteran journalist, Abdallah had previously reported on the frontlines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as the war against the Islamic State group, according to a Reuters obituary. He had been nominated for Reuters Video Journalist of the Year for his coverage of the Beirut port explosion.
Abdallah began working with Reuters 16 years ago. The producer who hired him at the time, Lutfi Abu Aun, said over the weekend, “His passion was infectious, his professionalism without question and his humanity a shining light in the darkest places.”