A Reuters video journalist was killed and six other journalists injured in southern Lebanon on Friday when missiles fired from the direction of Israel struck them, according to a Reuters videographer who was at the scene.
The group of journalists, including from Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse, were working near Alma al-Shaab, close to the Israel border, where the Israeli military and Lebanese militia Hezbollah have been trading fire in border clashes.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and a Hezbollah lawmaker blamed the incident on Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Israel’s U.N. envoy, Gilad Erdan, said in a briefing on Friday: “Obviously, we would never want to hit or kill or shoot any journalist that is doing its job. But you know, we’re in a state of war, things might happen.” He added that the country would investigate.
Reuters said in a statement that Issam Abdallah had been killed while providing a live video signal for broadcasters. The camera was pointed at a hillside when a loud explosion shook the camera, filling the air with smoke, and screams were heard.
“We are deeply saddened to learn that our videographer, Issam Abdallah, has been killed,” Reuters said.
“We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region, and supporting Issam’s family and colleagues.”
Two other Reuters journalists, Thaer Al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh, were wounded in the incident and released from a hospital after receiving medical care, Reuters said.
Nazeh said Reuters and the two other news organizations were filming missile fire coming from the direction of Israel when one struck Abdallah as he was sitting on a low stone wall near the rest of the group. Seconds later, another missile hit the car being used by the group, setting it aflame.
While other news outlets, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, said the shells were Israeli, Reuters could not establish whether the missiles had actually been fired by Israel.
Agence France-Presse said two of its journalists were wounded.
Qatari funded broadcaster Al Jazeera said two of its journalists were also wounded in the incident and had been clearly distinguishable as press. It blamed Israel for the incident, saying all those behind “this criminal act” should be held accountable.
“The broadcast vehicle was bombed and completely burned despite the presence of our team close to/side by side with the rest of the international media crews in an agreed-upon location,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
The village of Alma Al-Shaab has been the site of repeated clashes since war erupted further south between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian militia with close ties to Hezbollah.
Hamas fighters burst out of the Gaza Strip a week ago and launched a deadly assault on Israeli civilians and soldiers, triggering heavy bombardment of Gaza.
In an interview with Reuters, Fatima Kanso, Abdallah’s mother, blamed Israel for the death of her son.
“Israel deliberately killed my son. They were all wearing journalists’ gear and the word ‘press’ was visible. Israel cannot deny this crime,” she added.
Shortly before Abdallah was killed, he posted on social media a photograph of himself wearing a helmet and a flak jacket with the word “press” visible on it.
The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kanso’s remarks.
“We always try to mitigate and avoid civilian casualties,” Erdan, Israel’s UN envoy, said to reporters in a briefing.
“We regret them. We feel sorry. And we will investigate it. Right now, it’s too early to call what happened there,” he said.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a peacekeeping unit that patrols Lebanon’s border with Israel, said it was saddened by the news and called for the firing to stop.
“The potential for this escalation to spiral out of control is clear, and it must be halted,” it said in a statement.