Rights groups say Israeli attack that killed journalist in Lebanon appeared deliberate

The equipment of killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah on display during a press conference held by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to release findings from their investigations into the deadly strikes by Israel on southern Lebanon on October 13 in Beirut. Photo by WAEL/EPA-EFE

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Two human rights groups said Thursday that Israel should face war crime charges for an attack that killed one journalist and injured six others while covering the current Israeli-Hamas conflict in Lebanon.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the Israeli strikes on a group of seven journalists in south Lebanon on Oct. 13 that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured six others were likely a "direct attack on civilians" and should be investigated as a war crime.

Amnesty International said it reviewed more than 100 videos and photographs, analyzed weapons fragments and interviewed nine witnesses, while Human Rights Watch said it interviewed seven witnesses, including three of the injured journalists, and analyzed 49 videos, dozens of photos as well as satellite images.

They both determined that the group was "visibly identifiable as journalists" as they all had clear markings identifying including helmets and flak vests marked "press" and were not near any targeted area where fighting was happening.

They also agreed that the Israeli military carried out two separate strikes within 37 seconds although it "knew or should have known" that they were civilians.

"Our investigation into the incident uncovers chilling evidence pointing to an attack on a group of international journalists who were carrying out their work by reporting on hostilities," said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Those responsible for Issam Abdallah's unlawful killing and the injuring of six other journalists must be held accountable. No journalist should ever be targeted or killed simply for carrying out their work. Israel must not be allowed to kill and attack journalists with impunity."

Ramzi Kaiss, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said evidence suggests that the journalists did nothing wrong or were involved in anything that would have warranted a violent response against them.

"This was an unlawful and apparently deliberate attack on a very visible group of journalists," Kaiss said.

In May 2022, Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed while covering an Israel Defense Forces operation in the West Bank.

After several investigations and pressure from the United States, the IDF admitted in September 2022 that it was a "high possibility" that Akleh was accidentally shot and killed by one of its service members.

The IDF or Israeli government had not responded to the latest report as of Thursday afternoon.