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Israeli tank killed journalist Issam Abdallah - Reuters investigation

Israeli tank fire killed Reuters video journalist Issam Abdallah (photo) and wounded six other reporters in Lebanon on 13 October, a detailed Reuters investigation has found.

Citing expert analysis of forensic evidence backed by photos, videos and satellite images, the special report published on Thursday said two tank shells fired in quick succession from Israel killed Abdallah, 37, and severely wounded AFP photographer Christina Assi, 28. Five other journalists from Reuters, AFP and Al Jazeera were wounded.


The reporters were covering clashes between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants from what they considered an open, safe area just over a kilometre from the Israeli border, and were wearing blue flak jackets and helmets with large white press markings.


Reuters has not directly blamed Israel until now. It spoke to more than 30 experts, officials, lawyers, medics and witnesses over many weeks to produce its account of the tragedy, reviewing hours of video footage from multiple outlets in the area at the time.


Reuters recovered shrapnel from the attack, which was analysed by a Dutch independent scientific research institute.


The TNO institute found that one piece of recovered metal was the tail fin of a 120-mm round of a type used by Israeli tanks.


Reuters asked Israel for comment on its findings, but a military spokesman said only that the IDF did not target journalists. Israel said previously it was looking into the incident but has published no findings.

“The evidence we now have, and have published today, shows that an Israeli tank crew killed our colleague Issam Abdallah,” Reuters editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni said.


“We condemn Issam’s killing. We call on Israel to explain how this could have happened and to hold to account those responsible for his death and the wounding of Christina Assi, of the AFP, our colleagues Thaier Al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh, and the three other journalists,” she said. “Issam was a brilliant and passionate journalist, who was much loved at Reuters.”


AFP said the Reuters investigation confirmed its own analysis. Al Jazeera said the investigation “underscores Israel’s alarming pattern of deliberately targeting journalists in an attempt to silence the messenger.”


Amnesty International said the Israeli strikes must be investigated as a war crime. Human Rights Watch said the attack was apparently a deliberate attack on civilians and therefore a war crime. Those responsible must be held to account.


International criminal law expert Carolyn Edgerton told Reuters that two rounds fired in quick succession at a group of clearly identified journalists “is a clear violation of international humanitarian law and may also amount to the war crime of attacking civilians.” ■