Investigation concludes Israeli strike on Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah in Lebanon was 'deliberate'
Two Israeli strikes on 13 October in Lebanon which killed Reuters photographer Issam Abdallah and injured six other journalists were "deliberate attacks on civilians" tantamount to a war crime, investigations released by two rights groups, as well as Reuters and Agence France-Presse (AFP), concluded on 7 December.
The group of journalists were in the town of Alma al-Shaab, south Lebanon, filming Israeli shelling about two kilometers away, when they were hit by a tank shell that is only used by the Israeli army.
Thirty-seven seconds later, the journalists were struck again, this time by an unknown munition which destroyed a press car used by Al Jazeera.
According to the investigations, they were removed from ongoing hostilities and clearly identifiable as members of the media.
"Human Rights Watch concluded that the two attacks targeted civilians on purpose and are considered war crimes," Ramzi Kaiss, the Lebanon researcher of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said at a press conference releasing the investigation's findings.
Targeting journalists deliberately is a war crime, as they are considered civilians not party to a conflict.
Journalists were in view of an Israeli Apache helicopter and possibly a drone, as well as "four very developed surveillance towers in Israeli areas which can identify human targets," Kaiss said.
HRW said that Israel's key allies – the US, the UK, Canada and Germany – should "suspend military assistance and arms sales, given the risk they will be used for grave abuses."
Footage of an Israeli military post filmed by the journalists at the time of the strike also show what weapons experts said was infared lighting, suggesting Israeli forces were directly monitoring the press members prior to the strike.
The fact that there were two strikes, more than 30-seconds apart, also indicate that the strikes were likely deliberate and not accidental.
"Getting hit once or firing once could be a mistake. But … it was two direct shots at us. You can't say that's a mistake," Dylan Collins, an AFP journalist injured in the strike, said.
An Israeli military spokesperson said that they are "very sorry for the journalist's death," adding that it was "looking into" the incident. No information about Israel's investigation or claims of responsibility have followed their comments.
Since the 13 October strike, Israel killed two more Lebanese journalists, Farah Omar and Rabih Me'mari from Al Mayadeen TV.
The Lebanese government said that it would submit a complaint to the UN Security Council over Israel's "deliberate" killing of Abdallah and wounding over other journalists.
At least 63 journalists have been killed since the beginning of the Israel-Gaza war on 7 October – the deadliest month for journalists since the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) began gathering data in 1992.
Israel and Hezbollah have been engaged in cross-border clashes since 8 October, after the latter fired a rocket at Israel "in solidarity" with Hamas’ surprise attack across Gaza’s border the day prior.