Khalifeh, 25, was killed when shrapnel hit him in the head while he was covering clashes between Islamic State militants and local militia fighters, according to local news outlets and his colleagues and friends who spoke to CPJ.
Islamic State militants had advanced from the nearby neighborhood of Hajar Aswad in the suburbs of Damascus and pushed into Yarmouk camp on April 1, 2015, the reports said. Khalifeh was reporting on the clashes between the militants and local groups, led by the Palestinian Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis militia, a Yarmouk-based rebel group comprised largely of local fighters, when he was struck, the reports said.
Khalifeh, a Palestinian living in Syria, predominantly worked with the Palestinian news website Ajras al-Awdah, according to his editor at the website, Yousef Fakhredeen, who spoke to CPJ. Fakhredeen told CPJ that Khalifeh had worked with the outlet since the end of 2011 and covered everyday life in the camp through short films, articles, and images. Like all journalists working in Syria for Ajras al-Awdah, Khalifeh mostly wrote without a byline or photo credit. In January 2014, Khalifeh wrote an article, with his byline, that criticized the Syrian government for failing to deliver humanitarian aid to the camp besieged by its forces.
Fakhredeen told CPJ that he and Khalifeh had spoken in the week before his death. The editor said that although Khalifeh had not been specifically commissioned that day, the organization would have been published the footage of Islamic State’s assault on Yarmouk.
According to Abdullah al-Khatib, a media activist who was also the journalist’s friend, colleague, and roommate, Khalifeh had gone to cover the heavy shelling that day. Khalifeh lived with five other media activists, Khatib said.
In the following days, Khatib and others wrote about Khalifeh on Facebook. The journalist was a risk taker, one of his roommates told CPJ via Skype: “He was young, he went places others didn’t. He wanted to tell Yarmouk’s stories. He was a great friend and he will be missed.”