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Israel-Palestine war: Israeli drone strike kills Al Jazeera cameraman, wounds Gaza bureau chief

Wael al-Dahdouh and videographer Samer Abu Daqqa were hit while covering the aftermath of an earlier strike on a UN school sheltering displaced people in Khan Younis
Al-Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh receives medical care in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on 15 December 2023 after being wounded by an Israeli air strike (AFP)
Al-Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh receives medical care in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on 15 December 2023 (AFP)
By Abeer Ayyoub in Istanbul, Turkey and Rayhan Uddin in London and Umar A Farooq in Washington

An Israeli drone strike killed Al Jazeera journalist Samer Abudaqa on Friday, and wounded Gaza bureau chief Wael al-Dahdouh, a few hours after another raid killed dozens sheltering in a school, the Qatar-owned news network said.

Al-Dahdouh and videographer Samer Abu Daqqa were hit while covering the aftermath of an earlier strike on a UN school sheltering displaced people in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Footage of al-Dahdouh at the Nasser Hospital after the attack showed him conscious and receiving treatment for an injury to his arm. His injuries do not appear to be life-threatening, Al-Jazeera reported.

Abu Daqqa's injury was more serious, Dahdouh said from the hospital, but the video journalist was trapped at the scene with other wounded residents awaiting medical assistance.

Hours later, Abudaqa was declared dead after ambulances were unable to reach him due to ongoing Israeli fire as well as roads being blocked by debris from Israeli bombings.

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“It is with heavy hearts that we share the devastating news of the loss of our dedicated Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Dakka during the recent coverage in Gaza,” Mohamed Moawad, Al Jazeera’s managing editor, announced on the social media platform X.

“His unwavering commitment to truth and storytelling has left an indelible mark on our team. Samer, whose lens captured the raw and unfiltered reality of life in Gaza, was not just a skilled professional but a compassionate soul who understood the power of visual storytelling.”

The videographer, who is from Khan Younis, has long worked as al-Dahdouh's cameraperson, throughout the current conflict and during previous incidents and escalations in the besieged enclave.

Al-Dahdouh’s wife, daughter, son, and grandson were killed in an Israeli air strike on a home where the family had been sheltering in southern Gaza in October.

Wael al-Dahdouh is considered by many across the Arab world to be the face of Al Jazeera’s Gaza coverage.

Al Jazeera's live coverage of the relentless Israeli assault on Palestinians in Gaza has drawn the ire of many Israeli officials who are seeking its closure.

It is the biggest Arabic language news outlet providing televised and online updates on the situation in Gaza, within Israel, and in occupied Palestinian territories.

It is one of the few global media channels that has a physical presence in Gaza and Israel, which has barred anyone from leaving or entering the coastal enclave.

Al Jazeera has a frosty relationship with Israel despite being one of the first in the region to interview Israeli figures on-air. In 2022, Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by an Israeli soldier while reporting in Jenin.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said it was “deeply shocked” about al-Dahdouh and Abu Daqqa being wounded by Israeli bombardment.

“We condemn the attack and reiterate our demand that journalists’ lives must be safeguarded,” it said in a post on X on Friday.

The White House, however, struck a different tone.

"We still have no indications that the Israelis are deliberately going after journalists covering this war," White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday.

Intense fighting in southern Gaza 

Earlier on Friday, an attack near a school run by the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians (Unrwa) in Khan Younis killed at least 33 people, according to medics at Nasser Hospital.

Most of those killed were children and women, Al Jazeera reported.

Heavy clashes were also reported to have taken place between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, according to Palestinian and Israeli media. 

Clashes have already been reported in northern and central areas of the Gaza Strip, as well as in Khan Younis, but so far little fighting has taken place in Rafah, the southernmost town bordering Egypt.

The armed wing of Hamas said it had prepared for a long war with Israel, the group's former chief and senior leader told a Turkish newspaper on Friday.

Khaled Mashaal said the group has 35,000 fighters who have planned to fight a war "that would last months".

The estimated timeline was echoed by Israeli and US officials. After initially saying that it wanted the war to end in a matter of weeks, not months, Washington shifted tone saying that the war could last longer.

"We agree with the Israelis that this conflict could go on for months," Kirby told reporters on Friday.

The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli bombardment has now reached over 18,700, most of whom are children and women. More than 50,000 have been wounded. 

The besieged enclave has been under a complete telecommunications and internet blackout since Wednesday evening. 

In a report published by Middle East Eye on Friday, a Palestinian civilian detained by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip described being bound and strapped with explosives before being forced into a tunnel suspected to be used by Hamas.

Hakim, 30, told MEE that the Israeli soldiers were using him as a human shield as they sought Hamas fighters underground.

The Palestinian, who wished to be identified only by his first name and was released two days ago, said he was one of the dozens of men seen in photographs and video bound and stripped to their underwear by Israeli troops. 

Shipping firm halts all journeys through Red Sea

Elsewhere, the Danish shipping giant Maersk has announced that it will be pausing all of its shipping journeys through the Red Sea, following a series of attacks on vessels by Yemen's Houthis.

"The recent attacks on commercial vessels in the area are alarming and pose a significant threat to the safety and security of seafarers," Maersk said in a statement sent to the BBC on Friday.

The Houthis have said they are targeting ships travelling to Israel, in response to Israel's military assault on Gaza, and warned vessels not to travel that route.

The Red Sea is one of the busiest trade routes by sea, especially for oil and fuel shipments.

On Thursday, the Maersk Gibraltar, a Hong Kong-flagged container ship that had been sailing from Oman to Saudi Arabia, was nearly hit by a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis.

Soon after Maersk's announcement, German container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd decided to also pause all its sailings through the sea until 18 December, a spokesperson said on Friday.

The news came hours after it reported one of its ships was attacked near Yemen.

“Then we will decide for the period thereafter,” the spokesperson added.

Kirby, the White House spokesman, told reporters that there would be more news to come about a maritime task force in the coming days.

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