More than 30 journalists killed since the start of Israel-Hamas war: 'An unprecedented toll'

The heavy bombings in Gaza have taken a toll on reporters and their families.

People lift placards and portraits of video journalist Issam Abdallah, killed on Oct. 13 by Israeli shelling at Alma al-Shaab border village with Israel while covering cross border shelling, during a protest facing U.N. headquarters in downtown Beirut on Oct. 15.

Israel’s assault on Gaza has resulted in a mounting death toll among journalists and their families in the region.

According to tracking from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 31 reporters have been confirmed dead since the fighting began on Oct. 7. Twenty-six Palestinian journalists have been killed, as well as four Israelis and one Lebanese member.

“CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties,” said Sherif Mansour, the CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, in a statement to Yahoo News. “Journalists across the region are making great sacrifices to cover this heartbreaking conflict. Those in Gaza, in particular, have paid, and continue to pay, an unprecedented toll and face exponential threats. Many have lost colleagues, families and media facilities, and have fled seeking safety when there is no safe haven or exit.”

The reported death toll in Gaza is more than 8,000 after weeks of bombing from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Israel has said 1,400 people were killed and 240 hostages were taken on Oct. 7 during a Hamas assault.

Reporters in the area have been aware of the danger, with one filmmaker documenting the scene in Gaza beginning her reports with, “We’re still alive.” The outlet Mondoweiss said that one of the young Gazans filing reports to them included the note, “Can you kindly publish the attached stories if I die?!”

In some instances, reporters who’ve memorialized their lost colleagues were killed in subsequent airstrikes.

“[Four] days ago we interviewed Roshdi Sarraj for a story about the 23 journalists killed in the Israel-Gaza war,” wrote Washington Post reporter Jennifer Hassan. “Roshdi, also a journalist, spoke of his late Palestinian colleagues with pride. Today we discovered that Roshdi was killed in an Israeli strike on his home.”

The Post reported that Roshdi, his wife and daughter were in the process of moving to the ground floor of his parents’ home in Gaza when the strike that killed him hit. In an update posted to social media prior to his death, Sarraj published a photo of himself reporting next to the rubble, along with the caption, “A lack of media coverage from Gaza .. due to the killing more than 12 journalists, the bombing, and the blackout of electricity and the Internet. However, we are still trying to withstand and continue coverage so the world can see the [Israeli] crimes in Gaza.”

A 'targeted' strike

People attend the funeral ceremony of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, who was killed by Israeli forces while working in southern Lebanon in Khiam town of Nabatieh Governorate, Lebanon, on Oct. 14.
People attend the funeral ceremony of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, who was killed by Israeli forces while working in southern Lebanon in Khiam town of Nabatieh Governorate, Lebanon, on Oct. (Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The danger has extended beyond Gaza to coverage of the violence in Lebanon, where journalists who were present say a Reuters reporter, Issam Abdallah, was killed by an Israeli strike. Six other journalists were injured when missiles that Reuters said were “fired from the direction of Israel" hit the group. Staffers from Reuters, Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse (AFP) were among the injured taken to local hospitals. The initial reports from Reporters Without Borders said it was a “targeted” strike.

In a letter to Reuters and the AFP last week, the IDF said it could not guarantee the safety of journalists in Gaza. The IDF said that they’re “targeting all Hamas military activity throughout Gaza” and that Hamas deliberately put military operations "in the vicinity of journalists and civilians.”

“Under these circumstances, we cannot guarantee your employees' safety, and strongly urge you to take all necessary measures for their safety,” the IDF wrote, referring to the intensity of the Israeli airstrikes and the potential for Hamas rockets to malfunction.

“The situation on the ground is dire, and the IDF’s unwillingness to give assurances about the safety of our staff threatens their ability to deliver the news about this conflict without fear of being injured or killed,” Reuters said in a statement in response to the letter.

Bureau chief's family lost

Al Jazeera reporter Wael Dahdouh carries his injured son from an ambulance to a hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on Oct. 25.
Al Jazeera reporter Wael Dahdouh carries his injured son from an ambulance to a hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on Oct. 25. (Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The families of journalists have also been affected. Last week, Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh learned live on air that his wife, daughter and son had been killed in an Israeli strike. The Qater-based network said the family was in a refugee camp in central Gaza after moving from their home in the north following orders from the Israeli military.

Axios reported last week that Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Al Jazeera to “tone down” their coverage, but did not give specific examples of the rhetoric he wanted changed.

The deaths of dozens of reporters have sparked accusations that Israel is directly targeting journalists. Critics pointed to the 2022 death of Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera correspondent who was shot in the back of the head while covering an Israeli raid of a refugee camp in the West Bank. Israel initially said its forces weren’t responsible, but further investigations showed it was an Israeli soldier who killed her.

Following Abu Akleh’s death, the CPJ published a report that found that 20 journalists had been killed by Israeli fire in the previous 22 years with no accountability. On the anniversary of her death, an IDF spokesperson said that the country was “sorry” about it, an apology which Abu Akleh’s family rejected. The International Federation of Journalists reported that a memorial for Abu Akleh at the site of her death was bulldozed last week without explanation.

In 2021, Israel struck a building in Gaza that contained the offices of the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other outlets. The IDF claimed that Hamas was operating out of the target, a claim the AP disputed, calling the attack “shocking and horrifying.”