Gaza strikes kill family members of journalist targeted by death threats

A flare falls over Gaza, as seen from southern Israel

(Reuters) - Deadly strikes hit the Gaza home of a news photographer days after an Israeli media advocacy group questioned his coverage of Hamas' Oct. 7, prompting death threats against him on social media.

Yasser Qudih, who survived the strikes on the night of Nov. 13, said four projectiles hit the rear of his house, killing eight family members.

The attack was five days after the Nov. 8 report by HonestReporting questioning whether Qudih, a freelance photographer, and three other Gaza-based photographers had prior knowledge of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Reuters strongly denied HonestReporting's speculation, as did other international news organisations identified in the report.

Qudih had provided photos to Reuters during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen although he was not a Reuters staff photographer.

Qudih said he had returned home barely an hour before the strikes on his house which were seconds apart, and without warning, at around 7:50 p.m. (1750 GMT).

"Israel attacked my home," he said. Asked why, he added: "I don't know."

Reuters could not verify who was responsible for the strikes, why Qudih's home in southern Gaza was targeted or whether the strikes were linked to HonestReporting's Nov. 8 report.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF), which has launched a military offensive in Gaza in response to the Oct.7 attack, declined to say whether its forces had conducted the strike and, if so, what the target was.

"The IDF is currently focused on eliminating the threat from the terrorist organization Hamas. Questions of this kind will be looked into in a later stage," it said, in answer to questions from Reuters.

In a statement, Reuters said it was "deeply saddened "to learn of the deaths of Qudih's family members. It also said HonestReporting made "baseless accusations" against Qudih.

"Thereafter, numerous threats against his safety circulated online. HonestReporting later accepted that its accusations were unfounded," Reuters said.

"The situation on the ground is dire, and the IDF's unwillingness to give assurances about the safety of our staff threatens their ability to deliver news about this conflict without fear of being injured or killed."


HonestReporting's Nov. 8 report prompted the Israeli prime minister's office to say the journalists were accomplices in "crimes against humanity". Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz suggested they should be treated as terrorists and hunted down, and a former Israeli envoy to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said they should be "eliminated".

After issuing its report, Honest Reporting's executive director, Gil Hoffman, told Reuters on Nov. 10 that his organisation accepted as "adequate" statements by Reuters and other media organisations cited in its report that they had no previous knowledge of the attack.

HonestReporting did not respond to requests for comment on the attack on Qudih's home. Requests were submitted by Reuters to HonestReporting on Thursday.

In a reply to Reuters on Thursday, Danon, a member of Israel's governing Likud party, reiterated his initial remark when asked about the strikes on Qudih's home.

"Every terrorist who illegally entered our communities on Oct. 7, every individual who arrived with the vile murderers who brutally assassinated, raped, mutilated, burnt and kidnapped their way through the south of Israel will meet the same fate," he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement that the Israeli military follows international law and takes "feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm".

Gantz's office did not respond to a request for comment. Hamas did not comment on the attack on Qudih's home.

Qudih told Reuters he lived in a two-storey house that was home to only him and his immediate and extended family. About 20 people were at home during the strikes, which left a large crater in a yard behind the house and destroyed one side of the building.

The director of Nasser Hospital, the main hospital serving the area where Qudih lived, confirmed to Reuters that the names and ages of the eight family members killed were listed among the dead registered with the hospital.

(Reporting by Reuters, Writing by Mark Bendeich, Editing by Timothy Heritage)