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Israel army claims two journalists slain in Gaza strike were ‘terror operatives’

Israel’s army claimed on Wednesday that two Al Jazeera journalists it killed in an air strike in Gaza were “terror operatives”. Hamza Wael Dahdouh and 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. The army said in a statement on Wednesday its “intelligence has confirmed that both the deceased were members of Gaza-based terrorist organisations actively involved in attacks against IDF (army) forces”. “Prior to the strike, the two operated drones, posing an imminent threat to IDF troops,” the army said. There was no immediate reaction available from the television channel and families of the two men. When asked on Wednesday by AFP about what kind of drones were used by the two men and the nature of the threat the drones posed to Israeli troops, the army said it was “checking”. It said Thuria was identified in a document found by troops in Gaza to be a member of Hamas’s Gaza City Brigade, while Dahdouh was identified as a “terrorist” belonging to Islamic Jihad. The army statement included a copy of a document it said was a list of “operatives from an electronic engineering unit of the Islamic Jihad, including Dahdouh and his military number”. Dahdouh and Thuria were killed when the car they were travelling in was hit by two rockets on a street in Rafah, according to witnesses. A third journalist and the driver of the car were wounded. Thuria, in his 30s, had contributed for AFP since 2019 and had also worked with other international media outlets. He and Dahdouh had been tasked with filming the aftermath of a strike on a house in Rafah and their car was hit while they were on their way back, AFP correspondents said at the time. Soon after the strike, Al Jazeera said it “strongly condemns the Israeli occupation forces’ targeting of the Palestinian journalists’ car”, accusing Israel of “targeting” journalists and “violating the principles of freedom of the press”. In a brief statement, Hamas’s press office said the army’s claims were false and that Israel “creates false pretexts to justify its massacres and crimes against Palestinian civilians and journalists”. Hamza’s father Wael al-Dahdouh is Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, and was recently wounded in a strike himself after his wife and two other children were killed in Israeli bombardment in the initial weeks of the war. Soon after Dahdouh and Thuria were killed, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that their deaths were an “unimaginable tragedy”. “And that’s also been the case for… far too many innocent Palestinian men, women and children,” Blinken said. On Monday, Wael’s two nephews Ahmed al-Dahdouh and Muhammad al-Dahdouh were also killed in a strike when travelling in a car in Rafah, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed across Gaza’s 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, denounced as a terrorist group by the US and EU, and has kept up a relentless bombing of Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed at least 23,357 people, mostly civilians. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 79 journalists and media professionals, the vast majority Palestinian, have been killed since the war began.

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