Reuters journalist killed in southern Lebanon by Israeli strike, colleagues say

BEIRUT — A Reuters videographer was killed and six other journalists were wounded Friday in southern Lebanon when the area they were reporting from was struck by Israeli shelling, according to two colleagues who spoke to the injured journalists in the hospital, as well as an eyewitness.

Charbel Francis, a cameraman for Al Araby TV, said he was filming a barrage of Israeli shelling on a hill, while standing about 50 feet from the other journalists, when the strike landed. The battle was in the distance, and there was no indication that fire from Lebanon was coming from anywhere near the journalists.

“We didn’t see anything being launched [from Lebanon], everything was falling” on the hill, he said, referring to the Israeli shelling.

Issam Abdallah died after Israeli shelling struck an area with international journalists in southern Lebanon on Oct. 13, colleagues said. (Video: Reuters)

“We are deeply saddened to learn that our videographer, Issam Abdallah, has been killed,” a Reuters statement read, adding that Abdallah was part of a Reuters crew in southern Lebanon providing live coverage of skirmishes along the border. The statement did not specify who was responsible for the attack on Abdallah and the other journalists. Two other Reuters journalists, Thaer al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh, “sustained injuries and are seeking medical care,” the news agency said.

Journalists from the Al Jazeera news channel and Agence France-Presse were also injured in the strike.

Al Jazeera said the journalists had all gathered in one area for safety in Alma al-Chaab, a village in south Lebanon. In video posted Friday by AFP reporter Christina Assi, who was among the injured, several journalists could be seen wearing blue bullet-resistant vests marked with the word “Press.”

The injured Al Jazeera journalists were Elie Brakhya, a cameraman, and Carmen Joukhadar, a correspondent, the channel said. AFP identified its other wounded journalist as Dylan Collins.

The Associated Press — which had a photographer on the scene — reported that an Israeli shell landed near the group during an exchange of fire with Hezbollah. The area had previously been a target of Israeli strikes, according to a Lebanese security source cited by AFP.

The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment. The colleagues of the injured journalists spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the incident.

Reporters Without Borders said Abdallah was “killed by an Israeli strike while covering the situation on the southern border” in Lebanon. The press advocacy group described it as a “heinous crime against journalists” and said it was “continuing its investigations into the circumstances of this tragedy.”

Al Jazeera said in a statement that it “holds Israel legally and morally responsible for this brutal attack and calls on the international community to take action to ensure the safety of journalists.”

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a mission set up in 1978 to monitor the border between Lebanon and Israel, said in a statement posted on social media that a “heavy exchange of fire” erupted in the area beginning at 5:20 p.m. Live footage carried on several news channels showed what appeared to be sustained shelling into Lebanese territory that lasted for about an hour.

“We are deeply saddened to hear that during this exchange of fire a Lebanese videographer has been killed with reports of other journalists injured,” the UNIFIL statement said.

A live stream from the area showed the hillside as the blast hit. A woman is heard screaming “I can’t feel my legs” before the feed is cut. Lebanese television broadcasts showed a woman in a press vest writhing on the ground, with fire billowing and a car burning in the background.

The border violence Friday, as Israel is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza, intensified fears that the conflict could widen to Lebanon.

“The potential for this escalation to spiral out of control is clear, and it must be halted,” UNIFIL said.

Abdallah, 37, a video journalist based in Beirut, had covered conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, and other major stories, including earthquakes that devastated southern Turkey this year. A wide circle of colleagues, friends and admirers posted tributes to Abdallah on social media Friday, and held a vigil for him in Beirut.

“He was genuinely one of the most kind and heartwarming people one could know. Totally selfless, a bundle of laughs and an extremely kind individual,” said Tariq Keblaoui, who said that a few weeks ago, Abdallah had helped him escape a protest that was being attacked.

Abdallah’s last post on Instagram was a tribute to Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was shot and killed last year by the Israeli military.

Francis reported from Munich.

Reference

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