Israel says Reuters journalist Abdallah was in a combat zone when he was killed

Israel’s statement on Friday said that on Oct. 13, Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants launched an attack on multiple targets within Israeli territory along the Lebanese border. (X/File)
Israel’s statement on Friday said that on Oct. 13, Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants launched an attack on multiple targets within Israeli territory along the Lebanese border. (X/File)
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Updated 08 December 2023
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Israel says Reuters journalist Abdallah was in a combat zone when he was killed

Israel says Reuters journalist Abdallah was in a combat zone when he was killed
  • According to Reuters’ report, Israel’s attack that killed Issam Abdallah and the injury of six reporters was likely intentional, amount to war crime
  • Lebanon filed case to UN Security Council

LONDON: The Israeli military, responding on Friday to a Reuters investigation that determined its forces killed a Reuters journalist in southern Lebanon on Oct. 13, said the incident took place in an active combat zone and was under review.

Without directly addressing the death of visuals journalist Issam Abdallah, a military statement said Lebanese Hezbollah fighters had at the time attacked across the border and Israeli forces opened fire to prevent a suspected armed infiltration.

A Reuters special report published on Thursday found that an Israeli tank crew killed Abdallah and wounded six reporters by firing two shells in quick succession from Israel while the journalists were filming cross-border shelling.

Israel’s statement on Friday said that on Oct. 13, Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants launched an attack on multiple targets within Israeli territory along the Lebanese border.

“One incident involved the firing of an anti-tank missile, which struck the border fence near the village Hanita. Following the launch of the anti-tank missile, concerns arose over the potential infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory,” the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

“In response, the IDF used artillery and tank fire to prevent the infiltration. The IDF is aware of the claim that journalists who were in the area were killed.

“The area is an active combat zone, where active fire takes place and being in this area is dangerous. The incident is currently under review,” it said.

The strikes killed Abdallah, 37, and severely wounded Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Christina Assi, 28, just over a kilometre from the Israeli border near the Lebanese village of Alma al-Chaab.

Amnesty International said on Thursday that the Israeli strikes were likely to have been a direct attack on civilians and must be investigated as a war crime.

In a separate report Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the two Israeli strikes were “an apparently deliberate attack on civilians and thus a war crime” and said those responsible must be held to account.

Following the publication of the findings, Lebanon declared its intention to present the case to the UN Security Council, while caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned Israel, asserting that its “criminality has no limits.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday it was important that Israel's inquiry into the killing reach a conclusion and for the results to be seen.

“My understanding is that Israel has initiated such an investigation, and it will be important to see that investigation come to a conclusion, and to see the results of the investigation,” Blinken said at a press conference.

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UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon

UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon
Updated 10 sec ago
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UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon

UN urged to probe deadly Israel strikes against journalists in Lebanon
  • More than 120 individuals and groups signed the letter calling for an investigation into the death of three media workers last year
  • Israel has been accused on several occasions of deliberately targeting journalists
BEIRUT: More than 120 individuals and groups on Wednesday called for a United Nations probe into Israeli attacks on journalists in south Lebanon, where three were killed last year.
An appeal addressed to UN rights chief Volker Turk expressed concern over “the Israeli forces’ apparent deliberate targeting of journalists and media workers in Lebanon.”
An AFP investigation into strikes on October 13 that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and wounded six others, including AFP photographer Christina Assi critically and AFP video journalist Dylan Collins, pointed to a tank shell only used by the Israeli army in the border region.
On November 21, Farah Omar and Rabih Maamari from the pro-Iranian channel Al Mayadeen were killed in Israeli strikes on southern Lebanon, the broadcaster and official media said.
The letter to Turk urged “an investigation to establish the facts and circumstances” around the attacks and for the findings to be published “with a view to holding those responsible accountable.”
Signatories included the Committee to Protect Journalists, local and regional rights groups, Lebanese lawmakers and media outlets including Al Jazeera, as well as AFP’s Collins and Assi.
A separate letter, sent to UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay, urged her office to “advocate for accountability for the apparent war crimes committed by Israel in south Lebanon.”
In December, Israel’s army said the October strikes occurred in an “active combat zone” and were under review.
Following the November strike, the Israeli military said it was “aware of a claim regarding journalists in the area who were killed as a result of IDF (army) fire.”
It added that there were “active hostilities” in the area and that the incident was under review.
The AFP investigation into the October strikes, jointly conducted with Airwars, an NGO that investigates attacks on civilians in conflict situations, found the attack involved a 120-mm tank shell only used by the Israeli army in this region.
A Reuters investigation found that two Israeli tank rounds fired from the same position across the border were used in the attack.
Human Rights Watch concluded that the October strikes were “apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, which is a war crime” and which “should be prosecuted or may be prosecuted for war crimes.”
France’s foreign ministry in December said “all light” must be shed on the October 13 strikes, while US top diplomat Antony Blinken welcomed an Israeli investigation into the strike as “important and appropriate.”

News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media

News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media
Updated 46 min 59 sec ago
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News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media

News outlets call for free access to Gaza for foreign media
  • After 5 months of war, journalists are still denied the freedom to enter the territory without direct supervision by the Israeli army, which is accused of ‘limiting insights’
  • In an open letter to Israel and Egypt, the organizations also called for greater efforts to ensure the safety of local reporters in the territory

LONDON: More than 50 broadcast journalists from major outlets have signed an open letter sent to the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in which they call for foreign media outlets to be granted unrestricted access to Gaza.

The letter, signed by representatives of British media organizations BBC News, Sky News, ITV News and Channel 4 News, and US broadcasters CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC, expressed frustration about the limited coverage they are able to provide because of the obstacles faced by international news crews.

“Almost five months into the war in Gaza, foreign reporters are still being denied access to the territory, outside of the rare and escorted trips with the Israeli military,” they wrote.

“We urge the governments of Israel and Egypt to allow free and unfettered access to Gaza for all foreign media. We call on the government of Israel to openly state its permission for international journalists to operate in Gaza and for the Egyptian authorities to allow international journalists access to the Rafah Crossing.”

The letter also calls for improved safety measures to protect local reporters on the ground in the territory.

“There is intense global interest in the events in Gaza and for now the only reporting has come from journalists who were already based there,” it said.

“It’s vital that local journalists’ safety is respected and that their efforts are bolstered by the journalism of members of the international media.

“The risks of conflict reporting are well understood by our organizations, who have decades of experience of reporting in war-zones around the world and in previous wars in Gaza.”

The signatories of the letter include noted correspondents including Alex Crawford of Sky News, Jeremy Bowen from the BBC, and Christiane Amanpour from CNN.

It is all but impossible for journalists to enter the Gaza Strip except under the direct supervision of the Israeli military, which has been accused of “offering only limited insight” by controlling the movement of journalists and their access to information.

Instead, news organizations are largely forced to rely on local journalists in Gaza to report the latest events and developments at a time when their lives, and those of their families, are at risk every day.

Crawford, the Sky News special correspondent, said that like many other journalists, she and her crew have “spent the bulk of the past nearly five months trying to get into Gaza” but have yet to pass through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt.

In one report, she said about 90 journalists are believed to have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7, an average of about 20 a month or one every other day.

“Can you take that in? Because I am finding that hard to,” she said.

Clarissa Ward, CNN’s chief international correspondent, who also signed the letter, is believed to be the only journalist not resident in Gaza who has managed to enter the territory since Oct. 7 without being embedded with Israeli troops. She traveled there with a medical team from the UAE.

Ward said the trip “provided a window into the war zone but only a small one.”


Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher

Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher
Updated 27 February 2024
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Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher

Media watchdog condemns assassination attempt on Iraqi publisher
  • Fakhri Karim was leaving a book fair with his wife when shots were fired by a group of unidentified individuals
  • Committee to Protect Journalists calls on officials to quickly pinpoint, punish those responsible

LONDON: Media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned an assassination attempt on prominent Iraqi publisher and politician Fakhri Karim.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said in a statement the assassination attempt “in a highly secure area of Baghdad sheds a bright light on the darkness Iraq and its journalists are increasingly facing.”

He also called on authorities to quickly pinpoint and punish those responsible.

A group of unidentified individuals — armed and masked — fired at least 17 shots at Karim’s car on Feb. 22 before fleeing in two trucks, according to reports from media outlets and statements on Facebook from his organization.

Karim, publisher and editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper, was leaving a book fair hosted by the Al-Mada Foundation for Media, Culture, and Arts in Baghdad.

Karim and his wife, Ghada Al-Amily, were uninjured in the attack.

The incident occurred at about 9 p.m. in the Al-Qadisiyah district of Baghdad, a heavily guarded area that houses Iraqi government security agencies and officials close to the Green Zone, where foreign embassies are located.

In a Facebook statement on Feb. 23, Al-Mada called it a “cowardly assassination attempt” and called for a criminal investigation.

Iraq’s Interior Minister Abdul Amir Al-Shammari said that he had instructed a special security team to enhance security and intelligence operations in order to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for the crime.

Karim is a well-known politician and journalist who worked as an adviser to former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. He was a strong critic of former Iraqi dictator and President Saddam Hussein. His newspaper, Al-Mada, is considered one of the few remaining independent newspapers in Iraq.


Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity

Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity
Updated 27 February 2024
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Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity

Berlin mayor decries ‘antisemitism’ over Berlinale speeches on Palestine solidarity
  • Politically charged edition of film festival saw many artists, including many of Jewish heritage, expressing solidarity with Palestine
  • Mayor Kai Wegner called promotion of ‘antisemitism’ during festival an ‘intolerable relativization’
  • Israeli Yuval Abraham, co-director of winning documentary ‘No Other Land,’ said he received death threats after speech

LONDON: Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner has accused the Berlin Film Festival of promoting “antisemitism” following speeches expressing solidarity with Palestine during the closing ceremony on Saturday.

Wegner urged the state-backed festival management to “ensure that such incidents do not happen again.”

In a post on X, he said: “What happened yesterday at the Berlinale was an intolerable relativization. Anti-Semitism has no place in Berlin, and that also applies to the art scene.”

Although Wegner did not specify the particular aspect of the ceremony or the artists he took issue with, he emphasized Berlin’s commitment to freedom and its “firm” support for Israel.

A member of the Christian Democratic Union party, Wegner assumed office as mayor in April 2023. Throughout the recent crisis in the Middle East, he has consistently voiced support for Israel, attributing “full responsibility for the deep suffering in Israel and the Gaza Strip” to Hamas.

During the 10-day festival, numerous artists used the stage to express solidarity with Palestine, including Yuval Abraham, director of the documentary “No Other Land,” who called for a ceasefire as he received his award on Saturday.

Accompanied by Palestinian fellow co-director Basel Adra, he said: “In two days, we will go back to a land where we are not equal. I am living under a civilian law, and Basel is under military law. We live 30 minutes from one another, but I have voting rights, and Basel (does not have) voting rights. I am free to move where I want in this land. Basel is, like millions of Palestinians, locked in the occupied West Bank. This situation of apartheid between us, this inequality, it has to end. We need to call for a ceasefire.”

Abraham, an Israeli journalist, filmmaker, and activist based in Jerusalem, accused Israel of a “massacre” and criticized German arms sales to Israel.

Abraham later posted the Berlinale clip to X, saying that he had received multiple death threats following the broadcast of the speech by Israel’s Channel 11.

“Our film ‘No Other Land’ on occupied Masafer Yatta’s brutal expulsion won best documentary in Berlinale. Israel’s channel 11 aired this 30 second segment from my speech, insanely called it ‘anti semitic’ — and I’ve been receiving death threats since. I stand behind every word,” he said in a post on X.

Other filmmakers and jury members, including American Jewish director Eliza Hittman, also used the closing ceremony to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The festival also faced an attack by anonymous hackers, who accessed the official Berlinale Panorama Instagram account and shared a series of infographics about the war in Gaza.

The posts highlighted Germany’s involvement in the conflict, criticizing what they perceived as the country’s exaggerated historical guilt toward Jews.

“From our unresolved Nazi past to our genocidal present — we have always been on the wrong side of history. But it’s not too late to change our future,” read one of the posts.

The festival promptly removed the posts and announced plans to “file criminal charges against unknown persons” responsible for sharing “posts about the war in the Middle East.”

In a statement, the Berlinale management clarified that filmmakers’ statements were independent and “in no way represent” the opinions of the festival. They emphasized that statements should be accepted as long as they “respect the legal framework.”

On Monday, a governement spokeperson said German officials will investigate how Berlin film festival winners made “one-sided” comments condemning Israel’s war in Gaza at the awards gala.

Amid the widespread anger at the comments at the award ceremony, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor, said on social media: “Once again, the German cultural scene showcases its bias by rolling out the red carpet exclusively for artists who promote the delegitimisation of Israel.”

At the film festival, “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel discourse was met with applause”, he added.

This year’s Berlinale marked the final edition under the leadership of Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek. The next edition will be led by former London Film Festival head Tricia Tuttle, who was present at the closing ceremony and received recognition from Rissenbeek.


Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’

Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’
Updated 27 February 2024
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Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’

Billboard Arabia launches exclusive studio session ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’
  • Series combines Arabic songs, modern music culture and innovative melodies
  • The inaugural session showcases Ahmed Saad performing his chart-topping hits

RIYADH: Billboard Arabia has announced the debut of ‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’. This exclusive studio session series combines Arabic songs, modern music culture and innovative melodies, offering fans of all ages an immersive audio-visual experience. 

‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’ is a journey of discovery, where Arab artists seamlessly fuse their most popular songs with new musical arrangements and rhythms. This unique fusion aims to captivate fans, inviting them to reimagine how language and lyrics connect, along with the blend of different melodies, musical styles and cultural influences. Each session concludes with an exclusive interview, offering insights into the artists’ inspirations and creative process, and showcasing their artistry.  

‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’ breaks the traditional mould by allowing artists to reinterpret their favourite songs in inventive ways. From acoustic and live percussion performances to blends of Latin, Arab, Khaleeji, and Afro-Caribbean inspired beats, each session is a celebration of musical diversity.

 

 

Ahmed Saad, who has been in the top ten of the Billboard Arabia Artist 100 since its launch, takes center stage in the first session, delivering a sensational performance of his most popular songs. Get ready to witness Saad like you have never seen him before, as he introduces a unique fusion of musical styles inspired by various cultures and backgrounds. Accompanied by talented musicians, his songs take on fresh and different meanings, creating new memories for music lovers.  

With the MENA region being one of the fastest growing music hubs globally, this announcement reflects Billboard Arabia’s strategic vision of providing a platform to spotlight established and emerging Arab artists, celebrate their creativity, and connect them with a wider audience. It also follows the launch of Billboard Arabia’s digital platform and flagship charts in December 2023, including the Billboard Arabia Artist 100 and the Billboard Arabia Hot 100 for Arabic music.  

‘Jalsat Billboard Arabia’ is now exclusively available on Billboard Arabia’s YouTube channel.