Justice must be rendered for Lebanese reporter killed by targeted Israeli shelling of journalists six months ago

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community to apply pressure to ensure that Israel is held to account for a Reuters journalist’s death six months ago in southern Lebanon. Six different investigations, including one by RSF, have concluded that targeted Israeli shelling killed him and injured six other reporters. 

The two rounds fired by an Israeli tank at a group of journalists in Alma el-Shaab on 13 October 2023 in southern Lebanon killed Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah and injured six colleagues who were with him – two other Reuters journalists, Maher Nazeh and Thaer al-Sudani, Agence France-Presse reporters Christina Assi and Dylan Collins, and Al Jazeera reporters Carmen Joukhadar and Elie Brakhya.

All six investigations – including RSF’s – concluded that the Israeli shells targeted the place where the reporters were located although they were clearly identifiable as journalists. Nonetheless, Israel has still not been held to account.

“Despite damning and indisputable investigations showing that Issam Abdallah was killed by Israeli shelling that targeted him and six colleagues who were all clearly identifiable as journalists, the Israel Defence Forces have yet to be held to account for this crime. This impunity endangers journalists all over the world. We will continue to support the journalists who survived this atrocity, as well as Issam Abdallah’s family and colleagues, in the quest for justice.

Jonathan Dagher
Head of RSF’s Middle East desk

“I want to know exactly who did this to me,” said the 28-year-old Assi when she received a visit from an RSF delegation in her apartment in Lebanon on 20 March. Assi spent several months in intensive care after being very badly injured on 13 October and had to undergo a partial leg amputation.

“What emerges from all the investigations is that we were targeted,” she said. “Why should I be sitting in a wheelchair, unable to work, to cover what is happening, and do my job?”

Collins, Assi’s AFP colleague, was injured by the second Israeli shell, which landed close to him as he was trying to tie a torniquet around Assi’s knee. 

“They clearly tried to kill all of us.” he told RSF from the AFP bureau in Beirut. Abdallah was a friend of his and he talked about his remarkable personality. “Issam was charismatic,” he said. “Everyone who knew him agreed. He was the guy you called if you had problems. He was also the funniest guy in the group. He was the beating heart of the press here in Lebanon. Why did they kill him?”

Investigations confirm targeting

Reuters published the findings of the latest investigation into the Israeli shelling last month. Carried out by the South Lebanon-based United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), it reported that an Israeli tank killed Abdallah by firing two 120 mm rounds at a group of “clearly identifiable journalists”. The report, which RSF has seen, concludes that the rounds fired at the journalists constituted a violation of international law. The IDF told Reuters the Israeli army was responding with artillery fire to eliminate a threat.

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