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Lebanon says Israel launched strike that killed, wounded journalists

By AFP - Oct 15,2023 - Last updated at Oct 15,2023

Mourners carry the casket of Lebanese Reuters video journalist Issam Abdallah, killed on Friday by Israeli shelling at Alma Al Shaab border village with Israel while covering cross border shelling, during his funeral in the village of El Khiam on Saturday (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — Lebanon said on Saturday that Israel was behind cross-border fire that killed a Reuters journalist and wounded six others near the border the previous day.

Israel's military said it was looking into the circumstances of the fatal strike on Friday which also injured journalists from AFP, Reuters and Al Jazeera.

The Lebanese army said in a statement that "the Israeli enemy fired a rocket shell that hit a civilian car belonging to a media team, leading to the death of Issam Abdallah".

Lebanon's foreign ministry also blamed Israel and labelled the strike a "deliberate killing" and a "crime against freedom of speech and journalism".

The group of journalists from different media, wearing press vests and helmets, was near the village of Alma Al Shaab, close to the border with Israel, when they came under "direct" fire, according to two eyewitnesses.

Israel has massed forces and tanks along the northern border with Lebanon, a country with which it remains technically at war, and where the Iran-backed militant group Hizbollah has a heavy presence. 

AFP photographer Christina Assi and AFP video journalist Dylan Collins were among the six journalists wounded. 

Collins said there had been no outgoing fire from their location prior to the strike launched from the Israeli side of the border.

“We were filming smoke billowing from Israeli artillery fire targeting a distant hill in front of us,” Collins said.

“There was no military activity in our direct vicinity and no artillery fire near us.”

The journalists were standing in an open area when they heard small arms fire from a different direction further west, along the border with Israel, according to Collins, who spoke from the hospital.

“When we turned our cameras to look closer, we were hit directly by what seemed to be a rocket strike from the Israeli side,” Collins said.

Shortly after, he said, “we were hit again, directly, in the same place and from the same area. Two direct strikes on the same area”.


Running for shelter 


Al Jazeera accused Israel of carrying out the strike, and Reuters said journalists were struck by “missiles fired from the direction of Israel”, citing one of its reporters at the scene. 

Al Jazeera reporter Carmen Joukhadar, also among those wounded, said that “Israel directly targeted us”. 

Joukhadar and fellow reporters were filming footage on a hill “in an open-air area, without any military sites near us”, she said.

When the first strike hit the area, she ran to her car for shelter, she added.

“Then I thought I shouldn’t be close to the car, so I ran and the second strike hit” the vehicle, she said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has expressed his “deepest condolences” to the family of Abdallah and other journalists killed in the line of duty.


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