The Israel Defense Forces said on Sunday night that two Palestinian journalists killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza earlier in the day were traveling in a vehicle with a terrorist operating a drone that put troops at risk.
Al Jazeera reported that two of its employees were killed in the strike in the Rafah area. The Qatari state media accused Jerusalem of deliberately targeting the freelance journalists.
Hamza Wael Dahdouh, son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent Wael al-Dahdouh, and Mustafa Thuria died in the attack. A third freelancer, Hazem Rajab, was seriously wounded. Two other journalists reportedly survived the strike—Amer Abu Amr and Ahmed al-Bursh.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry confirmed the deaths. Witnesses told AFP that two rockets were fired at the car, with one hitting the front of the vehicle and the other striking Hamza in the front passenger seat.
The IDF told AFP that it “struck a terrorist who operated an aircraft that posed a threat to IDF troops”, adding that it was “aware of the reports that during the strike, two other suspects who were in the same vehicle as the terrorist were also hit.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it an “unimaginable tragedy” on Sunday in Qatar.
“I am a parent myself, I can’t begin to imagine the horror that he has experienced, not once, but now twice. This is an unimaginable tragedy and that’s also been the case for far too many innocent Palestinian men, women, children,” said the top American diplomat, who was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday.
Israel threatened to shut down Al Jazeera‘s news operations in the country in the weeks after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, accusing the Qatari network of promoting the terrorist organization and putting IDF troops in danger by revealing their locations.
However, the attempt to temporarily close Al Jazeera‘s Israel office was put on hold as Doha has emerged as an important mediator in negotiating for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The government of Qatar is under increased scrutiny due to its close relations with Hamas, and some U.S. lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to take a tougher stance against Doha.