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14 Mar, 2024 09:25

UN report finds Israel deliberately targeted journalists – Reuters

The news agency has obtained a copy of an investigation into the killing of one of its staff in Lebanon last October
UN report finds Israel deliberately targeted journalists – Reuters

An Israeli tank fired two shells at a group of international journalists clearly marked as such, in violation of international law, a UN investigation has reportedly found. The deadly incident happened in Lebanon in mid-October.

The conclusions, published by Reuters on Wednesday, are part of a seven-page report dated February 27, obtained by the news agency. They coincided with what it had found on its own while looking into the death of its employee Issam Abdallah and the injuries of six other journalists, including those working for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Al Jazeera.

The report was produced by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the peacekeeper mission deployed on the border between Israel and Lebanon in 2006 as part of a deal that ended the Israeli occupation of the southern part of its neighbor. Tracking and investigating presumed violations of the truce is part of its job.

The attack happened on October 13, in the early days of Israel’s siege of Gaza in retaliation for a large-scale incursion by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Tensions ramped up at the Lebanese border as well, with sporadic attacks launched by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hezbollah militants.

Abdallah, a Reuters photographer, was part of a group of journalists covering the situation from a hill in Lebanon. An IDF Merkava tank fired two shots at them, the UNIFIL report confirmed. It called the attack a violation of the truce it is mandated to uphold and of international law.

”It is assessed that there was no exchange of fire across the Blue Line at the time of the incident,” the report noted, referring to the de facto border. “The reason for the strikes on the journalists is not known.”

An IDF spokesperson told Reuters that Israeli forces do not target civilians on purpose, including journalists, when asked about the UN investigation. He added that the incident is being examined by the General Staff's Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism – a body responsible for reviewing exceptional events.

Reuters released its findings in early December, based on eyewitness accounts, forensic analysis of evidence found at the scene and interviews with officials.

The UNIFIL report was sent to the UN on February 28 and shared with the Israeli and Lebanese governments, Reuters said citing a source. The mission’s investigations are normally not made public.