Deadly strike on journalists in Lebanon was 'targeted': watchdog
29 October 2023
Paris (AFP) -
A Reuters journalist killed in southern Lebanon two weeks ago and others wounded in the same incident were deliberately targeted, a Reporters Without Borders investigation released on Sunday said.
Video journalist Issam Abdallah died and six other journalists were wounded -- including two from AFP, one of them seriously -- in strikes the village of Alma al-Shaab in southern Lebanon on October 13.
'The initial findings of the investigation show that the reporters were not collateral victims of the shooting,' the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.
'One of their vehicles, marked 'press', was targeted, and it was also clear that the group stationed next to it was journalists.'
The journalists believe they were hit by fire coming from the Israeli side of the border.
The RSF initial findings did not explicitly blame Israeli forces, but said that according to ballistic analysis, the shots came from the east, the direction of the Israeli border.
The RSF probe established that two strikes 37 to 38 seconds apart hit a spot where a group of seven journalists had been for more than an hour.
The first strike killed Abdallah, the second, more powerful, ignited the vehicle used by Al-Jazeera, and injured several journalists.
- Mistake 'unlikely' -
'Two strikes in the same place in such a short space of time (just over 30 seconds), from the same direction, clearly indicate precise targeting,' the report said.
'It is unlikely that the journalists were mistaken for combatants, especially as they were not hiding: in order to have a clear field of vision, they had been in the open for more than an hour, on the top of a hill.'
The journalists' bullet-proof vests and the nearby vehicle were marked 'press'.
According to two journalists interviewed by the watchdog, an Israeli helicopter had flown over the scene a few seconds before the strikes.
RSF said it was continuing its investigation.
Lebanese authorities have accused Israel of being behind the strikes.
The Israeli army said it was looking into the circumstance of the fatal strike.
AFP is conducting its own investigation into the strike and has demanded that Israel and Lebanon conduct an in-depth probe.
Reuters has also called on Israel to conduct a quick and comprehensive investigation.
The Israeli-Lebanese border has been rocked by violence since Palestinian Islamist group Hamas killed over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in its October 7 attack on Israel, sparking retaliatory bombing of Gaza that has killed more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.