Journalists Sami Shehadeh (center) and Sami Barhoom (right) are seen at a hospital following the Israeli attack on a Gaza refugee camp on April 12. (Screenshot: CPJ/TRT World)

CPJ seeks probe of Israeli attack on TV journalists wearing press insignia

Washington, D.C., April 12, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for an independent investigation into the Israeli attack on journalists in Gaza working for the national public broadcaster of Turkey, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). The attack critically injured TRT Arabi camera operator Sami Shehadeh, whose leg was later amputated.

On Friday, four Palestinian journalists were injured by an Israeli shell while they were reporting in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. Sami Shehadeh and Sami Barhoom were covering war-related events for the TRT Arabic TV channel, Ahmad Harb was on duty for Al Arabiya TV at the time of the incident, and CNN stringer Mohammad Al-Sawalhi was also struck by shrapnel, resulting in a slight injury to his right hand and bruising on his left leg, according to TRT World, Arab News, Al-Jazeera, CNN, and RT Arabic. The journalists were transferred to Shohada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, where Shehadeh had his leg amputated.

A video captured by Al-Jazeera shows a shell being fired in an open residential area, followed by a group of journalists and others carrying Shehadeh, who is wearing a press vest and helmet — as were other journalists in the area of the attack. In the background, a journalist can be heard saying, “His right leg is blown off,” and added, “It’s a direct targeted attack on journalists.”    

“CPJ condemns the Israeli attack in Gaza on a group of journalists wearing press insignia that resulted in cameraman Sami Shehadeh, of Turkish broadcaster TRT, having his leg amputated,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna in New York. “The IDF’s disregard for press insignia, both after and prior to October 7, endangers the lives of journalists. This incident must be independently investigated, and those responsible for the attack must be held accountable.”

Shehadeh told Arab News that the group was in a relatively safe spot wearing press armor and helmets. “Even the car I arrived in was labeled ‘TV,’ and I’m a civilian and a journalist — they targeted us,” he said.

Right after the attack, while still in the hospital, Shehadeh appealed to the international community in a TRT video, asking, “Why do you ask us to wear press armor and helmets? The IDF clearly recognizes us as journalists wearing press vests, yet they still target us. Please put an end to this.”

In two interviews with Al-Jazeera Palestine and TRT Arabi, Barhoum mentioned that he and Shehadeh were in an open area with other journalists working for international media outlets and should have been easily identifiable by Israel Defense Forces tanks and drones, which were not close to them.  “As soon as I started speaking in front of the camera, a shell was directly fired at us, without warning, hitting me and Shehadeh,” he said “This was a targeted attack,” he added to Al-Jazeera, “and this is not the first time it has happened. But we will continue to cover because this is our moral and professional duty.”

In an interview with TRT following the attack on Friday afternoon, Türkiye’s Communications Director, Fahrettin Altun, strongly condemned the attack and added, “No matter what, we will continue to tell the world about Israel’s atrocities against civilians.”  Additionally, the United Nations said the Israeli attack on TRT Arabi team is yet another example of the dangers journalists face in Gaza and called for a “transparent and credible” probe.

CPJ research has documented a consistent pattern of IDF attacking journalists wearing visible press insignia. A May 2023 report found that of the 20 journalists killed by the Israeli military in the preceding 22 years, at least 13 were clearly identifiable as members of the media or were inside vehicles with press insignia at the time of their deaths, including the Palestinian American television journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7, 2023, several journalists have been killed or injured by IDF fire while wearing press insignia. On October 13, Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah was killed while wearing a press vest and helmet as he recorded cross-border shelling in Lebanon. On December 15, Al-Jazeera cameraperson Samer Abu Daqqa bled to death after Israeli authorities prevented his evacuation following what was believed to be an IDF drone attack. This attack also injured Al-Jazeera journalist Wael Al Dahdouh. Both Al Dahdouh and Abu Daqqa were wearing vests marked as ”press.”

CPJ’s email requesting comment from the North America Desk of the Israel Defense Forces on the April 12 attack did not immediately receive a response.