Thirty-four journalists have been killed in the war between Israel and Hamas, an international media freedom group said Wednesday, accusing both sides of committing possible war crimes.
Reporters Without Borders called on International Criminal Court prosecutors to investigate the deaths. The organization said it already filed a complaint regarding eight Palestinian journalists it said were killed in Israel’s bombardment of civilian areas in the Gaza Strip, and an Israeli journalist killed during Hamas’ surprise attack in southern Israel.
“The scale, seriousness and recurring nature of international crimes targeting journalists, particularly in Gaza, calls for a priority investigation by the ICC prosecutor,” Christophe Deloire, director-general of the group also known by the French abbreviation RSF, said. The organization is headquartered in France.
It’s the third such complaint to be filed by the group since 2018 alleging war crimes against Palestinian journalists in Gaza. Israel says it makes every effort to avoid killing civilians and accuses Hamas of putting them at risk by operating in residential areas.
The latest complaint also cites “the deliberate, total or partial, destruction of the premises of more than 50 media outlets in Gaza” since Israel declared war against Hamas over the militant group’s bloody Oct. 7 incursion, the organization said.
Another media freedom organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Wednesday that it was investigating reports of journalists “killed, injured, detained or missing” in the war, including in Lebanon. It said its preliminary death toll was at least 31 journalists and media workers.
“CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties,” said Sherif Mansour, the New York-based non-profit’s Middle East and North Africa program co-ordinator.
The ICC’s prosecution office is already investigating the actions of Israeli and Palestinian authorities dating back to the Israel-Hamas war in 2014. The probe can also consider allegations of crimes committed during the current war.
During a visit to the Rafah border crossing on Sunday, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan called on Israel to respect international law but stopped short of accusing the country of war crimes. He called Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
Israel argues the ICC has no jurisdiction in the conflict because Palestine is not an independent sovereign state. Israel isn’t a party to the treaty that underpins the international court and is not one of its 123 member states.
Reporters Without Borders said Sunday that strikes that hit a group of journalists in southern Lebanon earlier this month, killing one, were targeted rather than accidental and that the journalists were clearly identified as members of the press.
The organization published preliminary conclusions from an ongoing investigation, based on video evidence and witness testimonies, into two strikes that killed Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and wounded six journalists from Reuters, AFP and Al Jazeera as they were covering clashes on the southern Lebanese border on Oct. 13.