Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was killed and soundman Wafa Abu Mizyed was wounded after they stopped their vehicle to film Israeli military forces on April 16, 2008. Shana was using a tripod-mounted camera when an Israeli tank fired on the journalists. Eight other bystanders, most under the age of 16, were killed.
Shana was wearing a flak jacket marked "Press" and had gotten out of a sport-utility vehicle bearing the markings "TV,” as he filmed Israeli military forces outside of Johr al-Diek, near the Israel-Gaza border.
Shana was filming an Israeli tank from an open area about 1,000 yards away when the tank fired on the Reuters crew, the news agency reported. Shana was killed by a shell that dispersed hundreds of flechettes—tiny anti-personnel darts that spread across a wide radius and are designed to inflict maximum casualties. Shana’s last footage shows his location and that of the tank; the footage goes dark after he is struck.
There was no fighting taking place in the immediate area at the time, according to eyewitnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch, which conducted a detailed investigation in April 2008. The group reported that journalists who attempted to come to the scene also came under shell attack.
A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Reuters: "In our operations we try to be as surgical as possible and make every effort not to see innocent people caught up in the fighting."
The Israeli military’s subsequent investigation exonerated the soldiers responsible for the killing, saying that they had acted reasonably. "The tank crew was unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod and positively identify it as an anti tank missile, a mortar, or a television camera," wrote the advocate general, Brig. Gen. Avihai Mendelblit.
Writing in CPJ’s magazine Dangerous Assignments, Reuters Bureau Chief Alastair Macdonald responded: "To reach that ‘reasonable’ decision, the troops failed to note ‘TV’ signs plastered over his jeep as it drove, twice, along the road they were monitoring through high-tech sights during the preceding half-hour; they affirmed—questionably—that Fadel’s body armor was ‘common to Palestinian terrorists;’ they failed to find the fact he stood in front of them, a mile away, for four minutes an indication that he was not a threat; and they did not consider the 20-odd children playing behind him."
Reuters and CPJ called for an independent investigation into the killing of Shana, saying that the military’s conclusion left numerous questions unanswered.
Shana’s brother, Mohammed Shana, told CPJ in 2023 that he never received any answers, or any sort of apology, from the Israeli military. “They shot him because they didn’t want him to cover what was happening in that area.”
A Reuters spokesperson told CPJ that the company remains “deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague Fadel Shana.”
CPJ asked the IDF about Shana and other cases of IDF killings of journalists in an April 2023 email. The IDF did not respond to the query about Shana’s case but said “it sees great importance in preserving the freedom of the press and the professional work of journalists.”
This report was updated on April 25, 2023.