Published: 15:45, November 10, 2023 | Updated: 15:47, November 10, 2023
Journalists, aid workers fall victim in Gaza
By Jan Yumul in Hong Kong

Israel’s relentless bombardment takes huge toll on media personnel and humanitarian groups

A smoke plume erupts during Israeli bombardment near a position along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on Nov 8, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (PHOTO / AFP)

The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict has become the deadliest period for journalists and aid workers, with experts calling for a return to respecting international humanitarian laws and for an immediate ceasefire amid the worsening security situation and lack of protection for civilians. 

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which has been investigating all reports of journalists and media workers killed, injured or missing, the flare-up in Middle East violence since Oct 7 “has led to the deadliest month for journalists” since the group began gathering data in 1992.

As per the CPJ’s update on Nov 7, 39 journalists and media workers have so far been confirmed dead, with 34 of them being Palestinians, while four were Israelis and one was Lebanese. Meanwhile, eight journalists have also been reported injured, and three missing while nine have been arrested.

In a statement posted on its website, the CPJ emphasized that journalists “are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties”. 

Media personnel in Gaza “have paid, and continue to pay, an unprecedented toll” and face exponential threats, with many having lost colleagues and families, it said.

“Many of the journalists move to places where they think it’s safe, like hospitals and United Nations-run schools,” Mohammad Abualrob, assistant professor and chairperson of the Department of Media at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said.

“But lately, hospitals as well as United Nations-run schools have also been targeted,” he added. 

Abualrob also said that Israel’s total blockade of Gaza was preventing foreign journalists from getting in and covering the conflict adequately.

“Several doctors and ambulances (are also) being targeted by Israelis,” said Abualrob, noting that such targeting marks violation of international law. 

At a press briefing on Nov 6, UN Secretary Antonio Guterres said the nightmare in Gaza “is more than a humanitarian crisis” and that it “is a crisis of humanity”.

“Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children … More journalists have reportedly been killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades,” said Guterres.

On Nov 5, the heads of 18 UN and other humanitarian organizations issued a joint statement calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza, saying “Enough is enough”.

They noted that scores of aid workers have been killed since Oct 7, including 88 UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees colleagues — the highest number of UN worker fatalities ever recorded in a single conflict.

Hussein Hassan, an international aid worker, told China Daily that it is very unfortunate that humanitarian workers have been killed.

“These aid workers have risked their lives to provide vital aid to civilians and they are … (falling victim) to aggressive airstrikes, bullets, and rockets,” Hassan noted.

Media reports said recently that around 100 Israeli doctors had signed a petition calling for the destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Their petition alleged that Gaza’s largest hospital served as a base for “Palestinian armed groups”.

“Regardless of your political affiliation, you are a doctor sworn to protect civilians. For a doctor to call for bombing a hospital is an unprecedented situation,” said Hassan.

A World Health Organization spokesperson said on Nov 7 that 16 healthcare workers had died on duty in Gaza. WHO has condemned the Nov 3 attacks near Al-Shifa Hospital, Al-Quds Hospital, and the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza City, stating that attacks on health care in Gaza Strip are unacceptable.