JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israeli military said on Friday in response to a Reuters investigation that concluded that its forces killed a Reuters journalist in southern Lebanon on October 13 that the incident occurred in an active combat zone and was under review.
Without directly addressing the death of visual journalist Issam Abdullah, a military statement said that Lebanese Hezbollah fighters attacked across the border that day and Israeli forces opened fire to prevent the infiltration of a suspected gunman.
A Reuters special report published on Thursday concluded that an Israeli tank crew killed Abdullah and wounded six journalists by firing two shells in quick succession from Israel while the journalists were filming a cross-border bombing.
The Israeli statement on Friday said that on October 13, Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters launched an attack on multiple targets inside Israeli territory along the Lebanese border.
“One incident involved the firing of an anti-tank missile, which struck the border fence near the village of Hanita. Following the firing of the anti-tank missile, concerns arose about the possibility of terrorists infiltrating Israeli territory.” The Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement.
“In response, the IDF used artillery and tank fire to prevent the infiltration. The IDF is aware of the allegation that journalists who were in the area were killed.
She added, “The area is an active combat zone, with active shooting taking place and being in this area is dangerous. The incident is currently under review.”
The raids led to the death of Abdullah (37 years old) and the serious injury of AFP photographer Christina Assi (28 years old), one kilometer from the Israeli border near the Lebanese village of Alma Al-Shaab.
Amnesty International said on Thursday that the Israeli strikes were likely a direct attack on civilians and should be investigated as a war crime.
In a separate report, Human Rights Watch said that the two Israeli raids were “an apparent deliberate attack on civilians and therefore a war crime” and said that those responsible must be held accountable.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that it was important for the Israeli investigation into the murder to reach a conclusion and for the results to be seen.
Blinken said in a press conference: “My understanding is that Israel has initiated such an investigation, and it will be important to see this investigation reach a conclusion, and to see the results of the investigation.”
(This story has been reworded to use more precise language to clarify that the military statement refers to fighting on October 13, not a specific hour of the day, in paragraph 2)
Writing by Dan Williams and Howard Goller. Edited by Angus MacSwan and Mark Bendich
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