Al Jazeera accuses Israel of ‘assassination’ after strike kills son of bureau chief
Israel conducted an airstrike in Gaza on Saturday that killed the son of a veteran Al Jazeera journalist along with another reporter, prompting accusations from the news network that Israel deliberately targeted its staff members.
Hamza Wael al-Dahdouh, 21, the son of Al Jazeera’s longtime Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh, was killed when an Israeli missile struck the car he was traveling in through a crowded refugee camp, according to health officials in Gaza. Another young journalist in the car, 25-year-old Mujahid al-Sawaf, was also killed instantly in the blast.
Al Jazeera called the strike an “assassination” and said the two journalists were clearly marked as press when they were targeted. Israel claimed the car was carrying “terror operatives” but provided no evidence to support the allegation.
“My son Hamza had nothing but a camera. He wore a press vest. He just wanted to film,” Wael Dahdouh told Al Jazeera after learning of his son’s death, his voice breaking with emotion.
|Hamza Wael al-Dahdouh, 21, was killed in an Israeli airstrike on January 7th, 2023.
The deadly strike came just two months after Wael Dahdouh buried his wife and three other children who were among the nearly 50 Palestinian civilians killed during the latest major flare up between Israel and Gaza militant groups in November.
Dahdouh had become a celebrated figure in Gaza after covered the turmoil of recent years. The loss of five family members in four months encapsulates the human toll inflicted on the tiny coastal enclave by Israel’s military campaigns.
Israel justifies strike amid international condemnation
Israel has said Hamza Dahdouh and Mujahid al-Sawaf were operatives for Palestinian militant groups and claimed their car was carrying material used in drone operations when it was struck.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) alleged the two men were intelligence operatives but did not provide evidence to support the claim. Rights groups have accused Israel of justifying attacks on civilians by making vague and unproven terror accusations.
The strike that killed the Al Jazeera journalists was part of Israel’s newly launched “Operation Dawn” – an open-ended offensive against militants in Gaza prompted by an incident earlier this month where gunmen crossed from Gaza into southern Israel and exchanged fire with troops.
Israel’s latest military campaign has been met with mounting criticism from the international community. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the deaths of the Al Jazeera journalists an “unimaginable tragedy” while the U.N expressed concerns the airstrikes were violating international law by failing to distinguish between civilian and military targets.
Israel-Gaza violence likely to escalate
The deadly airstrike on the Al Jazeera journalists threatens to spark another full blown war between Israel and Gaza militants. It could also worsen diplomatic tensions between Israel and Qatar – Al Jazeera’s owner and a key backer of the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza.
Hamas has vowed revenge for the journalists’ deaths and said “all options are open” when it comes to retaliating against Israel. The group is likely to dramatically step up rocket attacks targeting Israeli cities in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Israel has made clear that its military operation has no defined endpoint and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the campaign will continue with “no time limit” until its unspecified goals are achieved.
With both sides seemingly committed to more violence, a repeat of the devastating 11-day war in 2021 that killed hundreds seems inevitable unless outside diplomatic intervention succeeds in brokering an urgent cease-fire.
Background to the latest clashes
Tensions leading up to this current flare-up began rising late last year amid months of Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank which killed over 200 Palestinians in 2022 – the deadliest year in the territory since 2004.
In late December, Israel launched an assault on the Jenin refugee camp leaving at least 10 Palestinians dead. Militant groups in Gaza then fired rockets at Israel in retaliation a few weeks later, sparking a limited conflict where Israel carried out heavy airstrikes.
A tense informal ceasefire between Israel and Gaza eventually held after Egyptian mediators intervened. But the truce collapsed violently this month when Palestinian gunmen conducted a cross-border raid that killed an Israeli soldier.
Israel’s new hardline government – the most right-wing in the country’s history – responded by launching Operation Dawn. The open-ended military offensive has already killed over 40 Palestinians, including 15 children in Gaza, according to health officials.
Rights groups fear that without outside diplomatic pressure the latest clashes could spiral into another devastating war – one that could further scar Gaza after years of Israeli blockades, widespread poverty and lack of reconstruction.
The recent killing of the journalists has inflamed tensions dramatically. With both sides talking up revenge, the violence seems poised to take an even darker turn as long as the triggers for war remain unaddressed.
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