How deadly is the Israel-Gaza war for journalists?

More than one journalist a day has been killed since the start of the war last month.

A funeral ceremony is held for Palestine TV correspondent Mohammed Abu Hatab, who was killed in Israeli air strike in Khan Younis on November 03, 2023 [Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images]

At least 39 journalists have been killed in just over one month of Israel’s war on Gaza – that’s more than double the number of fatalities in one and a half years of Russia-Ukraine war – in what has been described as “the deadliest month for journalists”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says 39 journalists, 34 of them Palestinians, have been killed since the latest conflict erupted on October 7. At least four Israelis and a Lebanese journalist are among those who have lost their lives in the war. The Paris-based press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has put the death toll at 41.

Israel has also been accused of violating laws of war due to its indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip, killing more than 10,500 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians. The Hamas attack inside Israel on October 7 killed more than 1,400 people.


How do journalist fatalities in the Israel-Gaza war compare with other conflicts?

The Israel-Hamas war has seen more journalists killed in the first month of conflict than any other conflict since the CPJ first started collating statistics for journalists covering conflict in 1992.

Christophe Deloire, RSF’s secretary-general, has described the toll as “shocking”, with the number likely to rise as the media watchdog continues to investigate reports of several other journalists either injured or missing.

In the war between Russia and Ukraine, 17 journalists in total have been killed since the war began in 2022, the last reported killing being of French cameraman Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff who was killed in May.

The US-led invasion of Iraq sparked a war that was particularly deadly for journalists – and set a trend that has continued. According to the CPJ, 283 journalists have been killed in Iraq since 2003. That includes 11 who were killed in the first month of the war, between March and April 2003.

The war in Syria had zero journalist causalities in its first month of conflict in 2011, although the toll there has since increased dramatically to between 270 and 715, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

By comparison, 63 journalists were killed in the Vietnam War that lasted two decades, and a total of 69 killed in World War II (1939-45) – the bloodiest war the modern world has seen.

Are journalists meant to be protected in war zones?

Yes. Intentionally targeting journalists, and civilians, is considered a war crime under international humanitarian law. Journalists are meant to be allowed to have the freedom and protection to perform their work without undue interference.

But in the first weeks of the war, the Israeli army issued a statement to international news agencies, stating it could not guarantee the safety of their journalists operating in the Gaza Strip.

“With their arbitrary air strikes, the Israeli armed forces are eliminating journalists one after the other without restraint, all while their unacceptable comments betray an open contempt for international humanitarian law,” Jonathan Dagher, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk, said in a statement.

Palestinian journalists carry mock coffins of Palestinian journalists who were killed during the current war in Gaza during a symbolic funeral toward a United Nations office, in the West Bank city of Ramallah
Palestinian journalists carry mock coffins of journalists who were killed during the current war in Gaza during a symbolic funeral toward a United Nations office in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah [Nasser Nasser/AP Photo]

RSF has reported that 10 journalists in the Gaza Strip were killed while working, and the CPJ has said 48 media facilities in Gaza have been hit or destroyed. At least 10 others were killed in their homes with their families. RSF is investigating whether they were deliberately targeted because of their work. Al Jazeera could not gather details about the circumstances under which other journalists were killed.

RSF submitted a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on October 31 alleging Israel had perpetrated war crimes against journalists in Gaza.

“This rate of attrition among media workers has deeply shocked journalists the world over. No one can watch the growing tally of fallen colleagues without mounting horror,” said the secretary-general for the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Anthony Bellanger, in a statement on November 2.

Israel has previously been accused of “silencing” journalists after it bombed a building housing Al Jazeera and Associated Press offices in 2021.

How many journalists and their families have been killed?

Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh tragically lost four members of his own family in Israeli air strikes. “They take revenge on us through our children,” he stated upon finding his son’s lifeless body.

His wife Amna, 15-year-old son Mahmoud and seven-year-old daughter Sham were killed, as was his 18-month-old grandson Adam following directives to leave northern Gaza for the south, only to come under Israel’s bombardment of the Nuseirat refuge camp where they were staying.

“What happened is clear. This is a series of targeted attacks on children, women and civilians. I was just reporting from Yarmouk about such an attack, and the Israeli raids have targeted many areas, including Nuseirat.

“We had our doubts that the Israeli occupation would not let these people go without punishing them. And sadly, that is what happened. This is the ‘safe’ area that the occupation army spoke of,” Dahdouh said.

Mohamed Abu Hasira, a journalist for the Palestinian Authority-run news agency Wafa, was killed in an air strike on his home in Gaza along with 42 family members; and Mohamed Al Jaja, a consultant at Press-House Palestine, was killed in an air strike on his home along with his wife and two daughters in the Nasr neighbourhood in northern Gaza.

Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent Youmna ElSayed said it was a “shock that we, journalists, who report to the world what’s happening around us, have to report the story of our colleagues or of our own families”.

Two years ago, she along with others was given an hour to vacate al-Jalaa tower before Israel brought the building to the ground saying the building contained Hamas military assets. Israel never provided proof of its allegation. The building housed residential apartments and the offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said: “Those in Gaza, in particular, have paid, and continue to pay, an unprecedented toll and face exponential threats. Many have lost colleagues, families, and media facilities, and have fled seeking safety when there is no safe haven or exit.”

How were the Israeli and Lebanese journalists killed?

At least four Israeli journalists were also killed during the October 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel.

CPJ said Shai Regev, editor for TMI and Ayelet Arnin from the Israel Broadcasting Corporation Kan were among the hundreds of other victims. Two more were killed in the kibbutz located just outside of Gaza. RSF said Roee Idan, a reporter for the Israeli newspaper YNet, was killed along with his family at the Kfar Aza kibbutz close to the fence with Gaza.

Yaniv Zohar, an Israeli photographer working for the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Israel Hayom, was killed during a Hamas attack on the Nahal Oz kibbutz along with his wife and two daughters.

Issam Abdallah, a Reuters journalist in Lebanon, was killed on October 13 by a missile strike from Israel.

What are journalism bodies saying?

Periods of communication blackouts have made it harder for journalists to document and report the situation in Gaza. RSF has called for “foreign journalists to be allowed to enter the territory, so they can work freely”.

Israel has threatened journalists and often dubbed local journalists to be supporters of Hamas. It only allowed foreign journalists this week in Gaza embedded with the Israeli military.

The International Federation for Journalists (IFJ) has issued a call, signed by 80 journalist groups, for Israeli authorities to take full responsibility for protecting journalists covering the conflict. “We demand an explicit commitment from the Israelis that their armed forces will take every effort to ensure that the grim tally of journalists who have died in this conflict rises no further. This is simply unacceptable, and the Israeli government will have to accept its responsibilities.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies