Middle east

Among Them, al-Dahdouh’s Son… Footage Raises Questions About Israel’s Justification for Killing Journalists in Gaza

Footage from drones raises questions about Israel’s justification for the deadly attack on journalists in the Gaza Strip.

This is what the footage from a drone captured by Palestinian photographer Mustafa Tharia documented and revealed less than an hour before his and his fellow journalist Hamza al-Dahdouh’s deaths during an Israeli airstrike targeting them last January, in the southern Gaza Strip, and published by the American newspaper “Washington Post”.

On January 7, an Israeli airstrike targeted a car carrying four journalists outside the city of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of two of them, Hamza al-Dahdouh, 27, and drone operator photographer Mustafa Tharia, 30, along with their driver.

They were returning from the site of an Israeli airstrike on a house, where they had used a drone to collect evidence of the strike.

The drone – a consumer-grade model available in stores – would be pivotal in Israel’s justification for the strike.

What do the footage show?

The “Washington Post” claims to have obtained footage from Tharia’s drone and reviewed it, stating that it was stored on a memory card retrieved from the scene and sent to a Palestinian production company in Turkey.

No Israeli soldiers, aircraft, or other military equipment appeared in the footage captured that day, published by the “Washington Post”, raising crucial questions about why the journalists were targeted.

The clips show journalists wearing blue press vests sweeping a mass of twisted cables and concrete, alongside children watching the men retrieve the bodies. Meanwhile, civil defense workers cover the bodies with blankets and carry them away.

The footage also includes 38 clips and lasts just over 11 minutes. Sometimes, journalist Mustafa Tharia is seen looking at the drone’s control device and allowing others to view the screen.

Tharia widened the shooting angle twice, briefly, to show the landscapes to the northwest and southwest of the damaged building (about a mile) in each direction.

At the request of the American newspaper, two analysts reviewed available satellite images of the area captured by Planet Labs and Airbus on January 7, covering an approximately 1.2-mile radius from the drone launch site.

No expert saw any evidence of military deployment or armed activity.

Questions about Israeli justification

The Israeli army said in a statement the next day that it had “identified and struck a terrorist who was operating a drone posing a threat” to its forces.

Two days later, the army claimed to have found evidence that the two men belonged to armed groups – Tharia to Hamas and al-Dahdouh to Islamic Jihad – and that the attack was in response to an “immediate” threat, according to its claims.

In response to multiple inquiries and detailed questions from the “Washington Post,” the Israeli army replied: “We have nothing to add.”

Hamza and Mustafa… Who are they?

Hamza is the son of Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip, Wael al-Dahdouh, who killed several members of his family, including his wife and three children, in a bombing targeting the house where they had sought refuge in the Nuseirat refugee camp, in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Wael said that Hamza joined Al Jazeera’s office in Gaza during the current war, where he worked as a photographer’s assistant and field producer.

As for Tharia, he was a well-known freelance journalist, contributing photos and drone footage for Al Jazeera, as well as for Agence France-Presse, Reuters, and Getty Images.

According to many friends and colleagues interviewed by the “Washington Post,” al-Dahdouh and Tharia left the city of Gaza in late October last year, along the civilian evacuation route set by the Israeli army.

The two young men lived in tents for over two months with other journalists in the city of Rafah, an area near the Egyptian border, where nearly 1.4 million displaced Palestinians sought refuge.

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