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At least 24 journalists have been killed in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza

Members of the press wait on an overlook in Sderot, Israel, to report on the fighting in Gaza on Oct. 21.
Alexi J. Rosenfeld
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Getty Images
Members of the press wait on an overlook in Sderot, Israel, to report on the fighting in Gaza on Oct. 21.

Updated October 26, 2023 at 11:42 AM ET

At least 24 journalists are among the more than 6,000 people who have been killed in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, according to the latest tally released Wednesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In addition to the steep toll the fighting has meant for civilians in the region, the conflict in Gaza has resulted in the deadliest stretch for journalists in Israel and the occupied territories since the committee began tracking journalist deaths in 1992, the organization's emergencies director, Lucy Westcott, told NPR.

Of the two dozen journalists who have died, 20 were Palestinian, three were Israeli and one was Lebanese. At least eight other journalists have been reported injured, while three others are believed missing or detained, according to the CPJ.

The last time journalists faced such heightened danger in Israel was during the Second Intifada of the early 2000s when more than 4,300 people diedover more than four years of fighting. The CPJ documented the deaths of 13 journalists during that time — a number now surpassed by the latest hostilities.

"This is unprecedented," Westcott said.

The committee's latest tally is most likely an undercount, as CPJ officials say they are also investigating at least 100 additional reports of journalists killed, missing, detained or threatened. Among those cases are reports of damage done to journalists' offices and homes, Westcott said.

"Based on preliminary reporting, we've also estimated that 48 media facilities in Gaza have been hit or destroyed," she said.

The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that sparked the conflict in Gaza resulted in more than 1,400 Israeli deaths and an estimated 5,000 injuries. Israeli airstrikes on Gaza in the days since the attack have killed more than 7,000, according to Palestinian officials.

Despite repeated calls for a ceasefire by humanitarian groups and some politicians, the war shows no sign of slowing down as Israeli forces prepare for an expected ground invasion of Gaza — the timing of which remains unclear.

The family members of journalists have also become the victims of the ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera Arabic Bureau Chief Wael Dahdouh's wife, 15-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter and grandson were all killed in an Israeli air raid, according to the outlet. His other son, Yehia, suffered a head injury for which doctors had to perform an emergency procedure in the hallway of the hospital.

The network showed images of a shocked Dahdouh entering the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital to see his family in the morgue.

"The indiscriminate assault by the Israeli occupation forces resulted in the tragic loss of [Dahdouh's] wife, son and daughter, while the rest of his family is buried under the rubble," Al Jazeera Media Network said in a statement.

NPR was not able to independently confirm details of the attack, but Israeli officials have maintained that they do not deliberately target civilians or journalists. In a statement to CNN, the Israel Defense Forces said it had targeted "Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the area."

Press groups are condemning the violence against journalists

The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Associationissued a statement this week condemning the recent killing of journalists in Palestinian territories, Israel and Lebanon.

"Targeting journalists is a stark violation of press freedom and international human rights law," the press association said. "AMEJA calls for accountability based on swift, thorough, and transparent investigations into the killings of our fellow journalists."

The Foreign Press Association similarly called on both Israel and Hamas "to ensure the safety and freedom of reporting of our Palestinian members on the ground in Gaza, who are reporting the news despite extremely dangerous circumstances."

Further, the organization called on all authorities "to ensure the safety of journalists inside Israel, where reporters have been subject to verbal and physical abuse by civilians and security forces on multiple occasions."

Palestinian journalists have faced the highest risk

A Lebanese girl lights a candle during an event in Beirut on  Sunday honoring Issam Abdallah, a Lebanese photojournalist who had been working for Reuters. The news agency says Abdallah was killed in southern Lebanon by a missile strike from the direction of Israel on Oct. 13.
Manu Brabo / Getty Images
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Getty Images
A Lebanese girl lights a candle during an event in Beirut on Sunday honoring Issam Abdallah, a Lebanese photojournalist who had been working for Reuters. The news agency says Abdallah was killed in southern Lebanon by a missile strike from the direction of Israel on Oct. 13.

The Palestinian journalists killed were based in Gaza and were "incredibly vital to the world's understanding of what's going on on the ground in Gaza," Westcott said.

Most recently, CPJ updated its tally Wednesday to reflect the death of Mohammed Imad Labad, a journalist from the Al Resalah Foundation's news website. He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City, according to CPJ.

On Monday, Palestinian journalist, filmmaker and Ain Media co-founder Roshdi Sarraj was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, according to his company.

Ain Media called Sarraj "a brilliant photo-journalist and film-maker."

His death came five years after the killing of Ain Media's other co-founder, Yaser Murtaja, by Israeli forces at the border of the Gaza Strip, the company said in a statement. After initially saying they would open an investigation into his death, Israeli officials later said Murtaja was a Hamas militant — a claim his family and colleagues have denied.

"With the killing of Roshdi, Ain Media loses another precious part of its soul. In 2012, Yasser and Roshdi, worked together heart-to-heart on a photo documentary project about daily life in the Gaza Strip, not about death. Gaza is life. Roshdi and Yaser are life: they gave voice to the people of Gaza, to their smiles, to the stories locked in fear, to hopes cherished secretly from the oppression of the Israeli occupation," the company said.

The death of Sarraj and other colleagues underscore the risks facing journalists based in Gaza. The area has been subject to continuous airstrikes by Israel in response to the Oct. 7 attack.

"Freelance local and photo journalists are particularly at risk, because they not only lack that traditional support of a newsroom, but because of the very nature of their work," Westcott said. This often involves capturing images and videos of the fighting and its aftermath, which means getting as close as possible to the danger.

The CPJ's investigations have revealed that "some journalists were shot and killed while reporting on the conflict while some were killed in airstrikes, in some cases, along with their families," Westcott said.

The CPJ is waiting to see if, or when, a threatened Israeli ground invasion may occur, Westcott said.

"That will certainly change the dynamics for journalists' safety as well," she said.

Even before the outbreak of this recent war, the Israeli government was under fire by humanitarian groups for the deaths of journalists. Last year, the Israeli military initially denied that one of its soldiers shot and killed Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh of Al Jazeera. At the time she was wearing a helmet and vest that was labeled "press."

The CPJ issued a report this year highlighting how her death was not a one-off, but rather part of a long, devastating pattern. The organization's report found that at least 20 journalists have been killed by Israeli military fire since 2001 for which "to date, no one has been held accountable."

In the case of Abu Akleh's death, the Israeli authorities have acknowledged Israeli gunfire probably killed the journalist, but they denied soldiers intentionally targeted her.

CPJ reports assaults, cyber attacks, have added risks to journalists

Reporters take cover upon hearing sirens warning of an incoming rocket attack from Gaza, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on Monday.
Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Reporters take cover upon hearing sirens warning of an incoming rocket attack from Gaza, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on Monday.

Beyond the very real risks of gunfire and airstrikes, Westcott said this conflict is also spurring assaults on journalists outside of the front lines.

Research by CPJ found that there were more than 10 incidents of assaults, arrests, threats, cyberattacks and censorship targeting journalists as they carry out their work in Israel and in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

That includes arrests of Palestinian journalists by the Israel Defense Forces, Westcott said.

Israeli journalist Israel Frey went into hiding after "hundreds of right-wing people stormed my house and tried to hurt me and my children," he said in a video he posted from hiding.

He's also been subject to a barrage of threatening messages.

"Yes, I am afraid, but I won't break,"Frey said in the video. "They went after me because I talked about the need for empathy and prayer for Gaza's children who are being slaughtered."

CPJ is similarly concerned about new regulations passed in Israelthat allows the country's communications minister to shut down foreign media outlets during a state of emergency if there's a belief the outlet damages national security.

The Times of Israel reports that the regulations were passed with the goal of shutting down Al Jazeera, which the country's communications minister, Shlomo Karh, has accused of "incitement against Israel." The network has denied his allegations.

"Journalists are themselves civilians in conflicts and they play a vital role in making sure that we can all understand what is going on," Westcott said. "We would just urge that all governments take that very seriously and do their best to protect journalists where they can. The authorities on all sides should publicly commit to recognizing and respecting that."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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