Israeli army appears to change tack on strike that killed Gaza journalists

Al Jazeera journalists Hamza Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuraya were killed in a targeted strike on their car in Khan Younis.

Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh hugs his daughter and son as they attend the funeral of his son Hamza, also a journalist, after he was killed in an Israeli attack
Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh at the funeral of his son, Hamza Dahdouh, who was killed in an Israeli strike, at his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 7, 2024 [Mohammed Salem/ Reuters]

The Israeli military has seemingly walked back its justification for targeting a vehicle in Gaza last week, killing two Al Jazeera journalists, United States broadcaster NBC reported.

Hamza Dahdouh, the eldest son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh, was killed in an Israeli missile strike on Sunday in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Journalist Mustafa Thuraya was also killed in the attack, while a third passenger, journalist Hazem Rajab, was seriously injured.

At the time of the attack, the Israeli army said it was targeting a “terrorist” in the vehicle.

It confirmed in a statement that a military aircraft “identified and struck a terrorist who operated an aircraft that posed a threat to (Israeli) troops,” adding that “we are aware of the reports that during the strike, two other suspects who were in the same vehicle as the terrorist were also hit”.

However, when asked if Israel had any proof that a so-called terrorist was present in the car, army spokesperson Daniel Hagari described the incident to NBC as “unfortunate”, and said that an investigation was continuing to determine what happened.

“Every journalist who dies, it’s unfortunate,” Hagari told NBC. “We understand they were putting a drone, using a drone. And using a drone in a war zone, it’s a problem. It looks like the terrorists,” adding that Hamas uses drones to collect intel on Israeli forces.

“We will investigate this incident and we will provide the data,” Hagari said.

Calling for an independent investigation into the strike, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said: “Israel first said it lethally targeted a car carrying journalists in Gaza because there was a terrorist in the car. Now it says that the use by a journalist of a drone made it ‘look like’ they were terrorists.”

CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme Coordinator Sherif Mansour said: “Targeting of civilians is illegal. Journalists use equipment like cameras and drones for their work. It does not make them terrorists and should certainly not make them targets.”

Al Jazeera correspondents said that the car with the journalists was hit as they were trying to interview civilians displaced by previous bombings.

The Al Jazeera Media Network strongly condemned the attack saying the “assassinations” of Dahdouh and Thuraya reaffirmed the need “to take immediate necessary legal measures against the (Israeli) occupation forces to ensure that there is no impunity”.

In October, Dahdouh’s mother, brother, sister and nephew were killed in an Israeli air raid. His father Wael was injured in a drone attack last month, which killed Al Jazeera journalist and cameraman Samer Abudaqa.

More than 100 journalists have been killed in Gaza since the current conflict broke out on October 7. More journalists have been killed in three months of Israel’s war on Gaza than in all of World War II or the Vietnam War.

CPJ data shows that more journalists were killed in the first 10 weeks of the conflict than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year.

Source: Al Jazeera