Press organizations flag international law concerns amidst rising journalist death toll in Gaza Strip, Lebanon News
Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Press organizations flag international law concerns amidst rising journalist death toll in Gaza Strip, Lebanon

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ),  Reporters Without Borders (RSF)  and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) released statements Monday alleging that the death toll among journalists since Israel and Hamas began hostilities has climbed to between 10 and 12, with several missing and 20 injured. It is difficult to confirm the exact number of killed or injured journalists as there is no electricity in the Gaza Strip due to an Israeli blockade, limiting communication.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said, “Journalists are making great sacrifices across the region covering this important conflict. Measures to ensure their safety must be taken by all parties to stop this deadly and heavy toll.” Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of RSF, stated:

We solemnly call on the Israeli authorities to put an end to military practices that violate international law and result in the deaths of civilians, including journalists. RSF calls on the parties involved to implement their obligations to protect journalists during conflicts, and on international institutions to ensure that these protection measures are respected.

In its statement, the PSJ alleged that Palestinian journalists were being purposely targeted on the ground in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon with physical violence including beatings.

Among those confirmed to have been killed are Husam Mubarak with Al Aqsa Radio, Issam Abdallah with Reuters, Ahmed Shehab with Sowt Al-Asra Radio (Radio Voice of the Prisoners), Saeed al-Taweel with Al-Khamsa News and Ibrahim Mohammad Lafi with Ain Media. The UN has called for an investigation into the death of Abdallah in Southern Lebanon from an Israeli airstrike.

Journalists in conflict zones are protected by international law. The targeting of journalists during war or conflict violates Article 79 of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which defines journalists on “dangerous professional missions” as civilians, making the targeting of them a war crime. Israel is not a party to Protocol I, but Palestine and Lebanon are.

The IDF has been previously accused of causing casualties among journalists who cover the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A CPJ report from May alleged that over 20 journalists have been killed by the Israeli military in the past 22 years. There have been several internal investigations by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) into the alleged targeting of journalists, but the CPJ says that no IDF soldiers have been prosecuted.

The most recent Palestinian-Israeli conflict began on October 7 when hundreds of Israeli citizens were killed in ground and rocket attacks by Hamas. Palestinian authorities have alleged that nearly 200 Palestinians were then killed in retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. On October 8, Israel declared war on Hamas. Israel then warned residents of Northern Gaza to evacuate in anticipation of a ground offensive.

After many Palestinians fled to the Egyptian border, the border crossing was bombed in an Israeli airstrike, making it impassable and trapping many in the Gaza Strip. Israel has since renewed the call for evacuation of Northern Gaza.

A UN commission has already made allegations of war crimes by both Hamas and Israel, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) also alleging that Israel is illegally using white phosphorous munitions. Since the declaration, the Associated Press (AP) has reported that more than 3,000 Palestinians and Israelis have been killed in the conflict so far.