Al Jazeera cameraman dies after Israeli attack in southern Gaza, network says

A still from a video of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa.

Al Jazeera camera operator Samer Abu Daqqa, in a still from a video released by the network.From Al JazeeraJerusalemCNN — 

An Al Jazeera journalist has died after being badly injured during an Israeli attack in southern Gaza and then forced to wait five hours for medical attention, the network said on Friday.

Camera operator Samer Abu Daqqa died of wounds sustained in the attack, the Qatar-based network said, adding that he was bleeding for hours before medical personnel could reach him due to heavy shelling in the city.

Hundreds gathered in southern Gaza to mourn Abu Daqqa on Saturday as his body was laid to rest on Saturday, with his mother Umm Maher, sobbing as she knelt down to pray over her son’s grave.

Al Jazeera correspondent and Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh was also injured in the attack, the Qatar-based news network said in a statement to CNN on Friday.

Dahdouh was eventually evacuated to a hospital, but Abu Daqqa’s injury was too severe to survive, according to Walid Alomari, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief for Jerusalem and the West Bank. “Too many in Gaza bleed and die because ambulances can’t reach them,” he said.

The network went on to accuse Israel of “systematically targeting and killing Al Jazeera journalists and their families.”

A statement called on the international community to take “immediate action to hold the Israeli government and military accountable.”

CNN cannot independently verify the allegations. CNN has reached out to the Israeli military for comment but has not immediately heard back.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) data, Abu Daqqa is the first Al Jazeera journalist to have been killed in the latest Israel-Hamas conflict since October 7.

Four other Al Jazeera journalists were injured, CPJ says, including three in southern Lebanon and Dahdouh, who had also lost his wife, daughter, son and grandson in an Israeli attack on Khan Younis late October.

Under fire

Abu Daqqa and Dahdouh were on assignment in the southern city of Khan Younis when they came under fire.

Dahdouh later recounted the moments leading up to the incident. He said it took place when they were heading back to an ambulance belonging to the Palestinian Civil Defense after they were done filming in an area of Khan Younis that was hard to reach.

“Suddenly, something happened, a big thing, I couldn’t tell what it was, I only felt something big happened and pushed me to the ground, the helmet fell and the microphone,” Dahdouh told Al Jazeera while on a hospital bed before being informed his colleague had lost his life.

“I saw there was an intense bleeding from my shoulder and arm, and I realized if I stayed, I will be bleeding there in that location, and no one will reach me,” he added.

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Dahdouh said he was able to reach Civil Defense staff hundreds of meters away but was unable to help Abu Daqqa, fearing they would be targetted.

Al Jazeera said on air that Abu Daqqa was bleeding for five hours and no-one could reach to him due to the situation around him.

At least 17 others were killed and dozens of others were injured early Friday morning after artillery fire struck the city’s Haifa school and a residential home in the area.

Three civil defense workers in Gaza whose rescue efforts at the school were being covered by the al Jazeera team were also killed, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior.

CNN has reached out to the Israel Defense Forces for comment on its military operations in the area.

On Saturday, the body of Abu Daqqa, wrapped in a white cloth, was carried on the shoulders of the assembled crowd from Al-Nasser Medical complex in Khan Younis to a nearby cemetery. On his chest were the press vest and helmet he had been wearing when he was wounded.

KHAN YUNIS, GAZA - DECEMBER 16: (Editor's note: Image depicts death.) Relatives and friends bid farewell to the body of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who was killed while working in an air strike, on December 16, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. World Health Organisation's Executive Board adopted a rare resolution on access for life-saving aid into Gaza and respect for laws of war, with the UN health chief reiterating an immediate ceasefire as "nowhere and no one is safe" in Gaza. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Mourners gather around the body of Al Jazeera cameraman Abu Daqqa on Saturday.Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

Mourners react as they attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike on Friday while reporting on the earlier bombing of a school sheltering displaced people but Israel's military did not respond to a request for comment, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 16, 2023. REUTERS/Bassam Masoud

Friends and relatives attended the funeral.Bassam Masoud/Reuters

The funeral was attended by friends, family and colleagues, many of them wearing their press vests. Abu Daqqa’s wife and children live in Belgium.

Khan Younis has been heavily bombarded by the Israeli military since a fragile truce between Hamas and Israel broke down on 1 December.

As of December 15, preliminary investigations by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found at least 64 journalists and media workers were among the thousands killed in Gaza since Israel’s siege began on October 7, following Hamas’ deadly terror attacks.

The majority of journalists killed in this war have been Palestinians, alongside four Israeli and three Lebanese members of the press, according to CPJ. Thirteen journalists have also been reported injured, 13 are missing, and 19 have reportedly been arrested, the organization said.

Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief Wael Al-Dahdouh mourned the loss of his family members who were killed in a strike on October 25. Video shows Al-Dahdouh distraught over the dead body of his son and carrying the body of his grandchild through al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Gaza.

Journalist’s family was killed in Gaza strike, says Al Jazeera

CPJ said Friday it was alarmed by the drone strike that killed Abu Daqqa and wounded Dahdouh and called on “international authorities to independently investigate the attack and hold those responsible to account.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera, CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg reiterated a call for the protection of journalists and emphasized the importance of their work in Gaza, which she called an “unprecedented” challenge.

“We’re really only left with Gaza journalists doing this really important documentation work,” she said.

Abu Daqqa’s colleagues have been paying tribute to his bravery following his death, with Al Jazeera investigative reporter Tamer Al-Mishal describing him as “professional” and “a great cameraman and editor [who] doesn’t fear anything.”

“I spoke to him a few days ago and told him ‘Why don’t you join your family abroad?’ And he told me they will be back soon when this war is over,” Al-Mishal said.

Abu Daqqa had decided not to leave Gaza, Al-Mishal added, noting that the cameraman had worked for more than 20 years for Al Jazeera.

Hiba Akila, another colleague of Abu Daqqa, remembered him as a cheerful co-worker.

“Samer was not only an optimistic, joyful person who loved life, but he was also a journalist who upholds his journalistic mission, always giving us a boost whenever we felt pain and desperation,” said the Al Jazeera correspondent in a broken voice as she reported live from Rafah on Friday night.

“When we were supporting and comforting Samer that soon he will meet his family, he would say, ‘I will not go to them, they will come here, and we will be together in Gaza,’” she added.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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