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Al Jazeera rejects Israel army claims against slain journalists

Employer Al Jazeera, family members and Palestinian militant group Hamas on Thursday rejected claims by the Israeli army that journalists it killed in a Gaza air strike were “terror operatives”. Al Jazeera staffer Hamza Wael Dahdouh and freelancer Mustafa Thuria, who also worked as a video stringer for AFP and other news organisations, were killed on Sunday while they were on an assignment for the Qatar-based channel in the city of Rafah. “Al Jazeera Media Network strongly condemns and wholly rejects – and indeed expresses its very considerable surprise at – the Israeli army’s false and misleading attempts to justify the killing of our colleague Hamza Wael Dahdouh and other journalists,” the network said in a statement. “Hamza Wael Dahdouh was among a group of journalists from various media organizations (also including Mustafa Thuria) covering the IDF’s (Israeli military’s) devastating bombing… He, like so many journalists before him, was killed simply for doing his job,” Al Jazeera added. On Wednesday the Israeli army said the two men were “members of Gaza-based terrorist organisations actively involved in attacks against IDF forces”. “Prior to the strike, the two operated drones, posing an imminent threat to IDF troops,” the army said. – Making ‘excuses’ – Hamza’s father Wael al-Dahdouh, who is Al-Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, rejected the claims. “These are fabrications. It is clear that they (army) are attempting to defend themselves, justify what is happening and derail the issue,” Dahdouh told AFP. “It (army) wants to give excuses. This is clear (even) to children here,” he said, adding that Hamza had been an experienced journalist. “In this war, journalists can barely do their work, given that they are homeless and displaced,” Dahdouh said. Two of Dahdouh’s nephews, Ahmed, a 30-year-old electronics engineer, and Muhammad, a 26-year-old school accountant, were killed in another Israeli air strike on Rafah on Monday, relatives and the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said. Hamas’s press office also rejected the army’s allegations, saying Israel “creates false pretexts to justify its massacres and crimes against Palestinian civilians and journalists”. Thuria, in his 30s, had contributed for AFP since 2019 and had also worked with other international media outlets. He and Hamza were killed when their car was struck by rockets while they were on their way back from an assignment for Al Jazeera. Thuria’s cousin Muhammad Thuria said the army claim was a “false accusation”. He said Mustafa used to operate a drone for taking photos and videos which he sold to local and international news agencies. “He was an ambitious and professional young man who was known among journalists for his work.” When asked by AFP on Thursday about the kind of drones the two men were using and the nature of the threat they posed to Israeli troops, the army said: “We have nothing to add.” The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed across the border into Israel in an unprecedented attack on October 7 which left some 1,140 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas and has kept up a relentless bombing of Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed at least 23,469 people, mostly civilians.

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