Tue 25 Jun 2024 2:26 pm - Jerusalem Time

Investigation: Israel views journalists in Gaza as “legitimate targets for killing”

The current war on Gaza is considered the bloodiest, also in terms of the number of Palestinian journalists who were martyred during it.

Data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is based in the United States, indicate that at least 103 Palestinian journalists and media workers were martyred in the war on Gaza. Other lists indicate that the number is higher.

Since Israel prevents foreign media from entering Gaza, the task of documenting the war on the ground has shifted to Palestinian journalists in the Strip, many of whom have continued to work despite serious risks to their safety.

An investigation conducted by The Guardian newspaper and published today, Tuesday, indicated that the Israeli army considers journalists in Gaza for media outlets affiliated with or linked to Hamas to be “legitimate military targets.”

This investigation is part of the “Gaza Project,” a collaborative project led by the Paris-based non-profit Forbidden Stories, which has analyzed the killing of journalists in Gaza since Israel began its war on October 7.

The killing, injury or arrest of numerous Palestinian journalists and media workers – working for a wide range of local and international media platforms – by Israeli forces has raised concerns among press freedom organizations that Israel is deliberately seeking to silence reporting documenting the war.

Of those listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as having been martyred in Gaza since October 7, about 30% worked for media organizations affiliated with or closely linked to Hamas.

In collaboration with Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), a non-profit organization based in Jordan, The Guardian has identified at least 23 people killed since the beginning of the war who worked for the largest Hamas-run media organization in Gaza, the Al-Aqsa Media.

When asked about Al-Aqsa network victims, a senior Israeli military spokesman told reporters at the Gaza Project union that there was “no difference” between working for the media organization and belonging to the armed wing of Hamas, a sweeping statement that legal experts described as troubling.

“It is a shocking statement,” said Adel Haq, a law professor at Rutgers University in the United States, describing the situation as “showing a complete misunderstanding or just a willful disregard for international law.”

The US administration claims that the channel is "a propaganda arm for Hamas and constitutes a central platform for distributing inflammatory messages by the terrorist organization." Al-Aqsa Channel has also been subject to US sanctions since 2010. But legal experts said that such a description does not constitute a “blank check that allows the Israeli army to kill its employees.”

“The reporting of news does not constitute direct participation in hostilities,” said Janina Dale, a professor at Oxford University and an expert on the laws of war. “Even if they reported the news in a biased manner, even if they did propaganda for Hamas, and even if Israel fundamentally disagreed with the way they reported the news. “It is not enough,” the newspaper reported.

A source familiar with the legal advice provided to Israeli army commanders told the newspaper that journalists working for Hamas-affiliated media outlets were located inside a “combat zone,” and there was a “problematic” view among some in the army that “whenever someone receives a salary in... "The end of Hamas was considered a legitimate goal."

In an interview with Radio France, one of the Guardian's partners in the "Gaza Project," Israeli army spokesman Olivier Rafovich said that "there is no difference between the political wing and the military wing of Hamas."

Many legal experts said this situation was troubling. Although there are specific individuals who may have participated in journalistic and combat activities, saying that everyone who works in a media organization is extremist does not distinguish between fighters and civilians.

“This is the most fundamental idea of international humanitarian law,” Haq said. “It is appalling to hear that a member of the Israeli army publicly reveals his ignorance or disregard for this basic principle.”

Haq added: “If a journalist is not part of the military wing of Hamas, and if he is not a combatant in terms of role or function, then he is a civilian unless he is directly involved in hostilities.”

Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, told The Gaza Project that Israel had “spread disinformation about journalists’ links to militants” and failed to meet the “burden of proof” to make such claims.

According to a survey conducted by the ARIJ Foundation for Investigative Journalism that included more than two hundred journalists in Gaza, almost all of the journalists said that they were displaced due to the Israeli attack, and half of them said that they were living in tents. Eighty-six percent of them said their homes were partially or completely destroyed.

“The psychological situation is very difficult,” said Mohammed Abed, an AFP photographer based in Gaza. “Many journalists died while sleeping with their families. When we interviewed the survivors, they told us that they were in their homes. We had dinner and talked with the neighbors. When we went to "Sleep bombed us."


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Investigation: Israel views journalists in Gaza as “legitimate targets for killing”