Journalists in South Lebanon Say Targeted in Israeli Strikes

Flames erupt next to a press car following reported Israeli shelling in Lebanon's southern border village of Yaroun on November 13, 2023, amid increasing cross-border tensions between Hezbollah and Israel as fighting continues in the south with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by AFP)

Journalists in southern Lebanon said they were targeted yesterday in Israeli strikes, which Al Jazeera network said lightly wounded its photographer.

A local mayor and Lebanese state media corroborated the journalists’ account of the cross-border incident, which came exactly a month after deadly strikes blamed on Israel hit a press group near Alma al-Shaab in southern Lebanon.

Contacted by AFP, the Israeli army did not immediately comment on the latest strikes.

Around a dozen journalists from several media outlets were on a tour to inspect damage from Israeli bombardments and had been providing coverage from the border town of Yarun when the strikes hit.

Al Jazeera said its photographer Issam Mawasi was “lightly wounded as a result of Israeli bombing”.

“Al Jazeera’s broadcast vehicle was also damaged during the attack. The strike occurred as a group of journalists toured the area,” a report on the Qatari broadcaster’s website said.

Al Jazeera’s Lebanon bureau chief Mazen Ibrahim accused Israel of “directly targeting” the group, adding that the journalists were in an open area.

“Israeli occupation forces don’t hesitate to directly target journalists,” he charged.

On October 13, Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah was killed and six other journalists from AFP, Al Jazeera and Reuters were wounded while covering the cross-border fighting in southern Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities have accused Israel of being behind the strikes. The Israeli army had said it was looking into the circumstance of the fatal strike.

Yarun mayor Ali Qassem Tahfah said two successive Israeli strikes on Monday “targeted the group of journalists”, hitting several metres from the teams’ vehicles and causing damage.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency also said two Israeli strikes “targeted a media team” who were working in Yarun.

Local broadcaster Al Jadeed posted video on X, formerly Twitter, showing one of its correspondents, in a protective vest and helmet marked press, conducting a live broadcast when one strike hit, and a subsequent blaze nearby.

Other video footage showed civilian vehicles including at least one marked “press” on the road adjacent to the blaze.

Dozens killed

“We were on a tour to inspect damaged houses,” journalist Amal Khalil from local newspaper Al-Akhbar told AFP.

“Around 15 minutes after we were near a damaged house, the first strike hit the wall of the bombed house, and a second one hit the road,” she said.

Israeli surveillance drones had been flying over the town at the time of the attack, she added.

Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon’s southern border has seen intensifying tit-for-tat exchanges, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah, an ally of the Palestinian group, stoking fears of a broader conflagration.

At least 87 people have been killed in Lebanon since hostilities began: more than 60 Hezbollah fighters, 12 other combatants including from Palestinian groups, and 11 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Cross-border violence since October 7 has killed nine people in northern Israel including six soldiers, according to official figures.

Another seven Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria in strikes attributed to Israel.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday that at least 40 journalists and media workers have been killed during the Israel-Hamas conflict — 35 Palestinian, four Israeli and one Lebanese.