White House denies Israel targeted the 27 journalists killed in Gaza

Al Jazeera’s Wael Al-Dahdouh was back on assignment after the funeral of his wife, son, daughter and grandson in the Israeli bombing. “It is my duty despite the pain and bleeding wound," he said

Representative image of the body of a Palestinian citizen being carried by youths into a morgue at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, following Israeli airstrikes and bombing raids (photo: Getty Images)
Representative image of the body of a Palestinian citizen being carried by youths into a morgue at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, following Israeli airstrikes and bombing raids (photo: Getty Images)

NH Digital

Wael Al-Dahdouh, Al Jazeera bureau chief in Gaza, has been 'luckier' than the 27 other journalists in Gaza who have been killed so far in Israeli bombing of the tiny hamlet, 41 kilometres in length and 12 kilometres wide.

Al-Dahdouh 'only' lost his wife, son, daughter and a grandson.

Soon after their funeral service on Thursday, 26 October, he was back on duty to report on the devastation. 

He recalls he was reporting on the Israeli massacres in Gaza City’s Yarmouk neighbourhood, when he was told about an Israeli strike that had targeted the home his family were staying in, farther south in the Nuseirat refugee camp. “Sadly, as I was speaking, I realised that what my colleagues meant was that the house had actually been hit directly,” he said on the Arabic channel of Al Jazeera

“I went there immediately. It was all destroyed. Some of my family had been rescued from the wreckage of the house. Others, I was there to help pull them out, moving the rubble out of the way. 

“Then I could check and see the painful tally of who had died and who was injured and who needed help — and who didn’t. It was sadly something I had to go through. We went through the most horrific night. Then today we laid them to rest. I buried them together with my own hands in a mass grave.” 

The Paris-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has compiled a list of 27 journalists killed so far in the ongoing 'Israel–Hamas conflict'. This is said to include four Israelis, one Lebanese and 22 Palestinian journalists. Eight more have been injured and nine others are ‘missing, dead or detained’.

Journalists covering a war are protected under international law and conventions, but there is growing uneasiness at the high toll of journalists in the ongoing conflict. Apprehensions have been expressed that in Gaza, they could have been specifically targeted. 

'CPJ emphasises that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties,' Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, said in a statement. 

Western powers and Israel have, however, expressed doubts about the death toll in Gaza.

Both the White House and the Israeli government and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officially deny that journalists are being targeted.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported the following conversation between its White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett and White House spokesperson John Kirby:

Halkett: As you know, Al Jazeera journalist Wael Al-Dahdouh’s family was killed by an Israeli air strike yesterday. His family was told to take refuge in a camp where they would be safe, and it happened while our bureau chief was reporting live on air. 

This is coming as reports are emerging that the secretary of state also told Al Jazeera to tone down its coverage of the war in Gaza. Does the president believe that targeting Al Jazeera journalists and their families should end? 

Kirby: The president doesn’t believe that targeting journalists at all, in any way, is appropriate. 

But I can’t speak to the specifics of that case. I’ve seen the reporting and certainly, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. That’s just horrible. But I can’t speak to the circumstances in which that strike occurred. 

But make no mistake, the president believes strongly in what you all do for a living, and how you need to be able to do that freely and securely. And we know that you take — all of you take — great risks sometimes in doing that job. 

Halkett: But I’m talking about Al Jazeera journalists specifically in light of the reports that Secretary Blinken approached the Qatari government, asking us to tone down our coverage. 

Kirby: So, you’re asking me in the context of, like, that we have some kind of beef with Al Jazeera

Halkett: Yes. 

Kirby: I’d let the secretary and their staff speak to his conversations in the region. I won’t do that. 

We recognise Al Jazeera as a valuable voice and an outlet that has incredible reach in the region and beyond. I don’t need to tell you that. It’s truly a global network and we value the work that you do. 

Halkett: The Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least 24 journalists have been killed in Gaza trying to cover this story. Are you concerned that Israel is trying to silence journalists who are trying to tell both sides of this story, including our Al Jazeera Arabic bureau chief? 

Kirby: I have not seen any indication whatsoever that Israel is going after journalists, in particular, because of them trying to tell the story. I’ve seen absolutely zero evidence of that. That’s an unfounded allegation.

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