BEIRUT: Lebanon on Saturday said it will file a complaint to the UN over the Israeli cross-border fire that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdullah and wounded six others the previous day.
The Foreign Ministry asked Beirut’s mission to the UN to raise concerns over what it described as a “flagrant violation and a crime against freedom of opinion and press.”
Abdullah’s funeral in his hometown on Saturday was attended by hundreds of people.
His body was draped in a Lebanese flag and carried from his family’s home to the local cemetery in the southern town of Khiam.
Dozens of journalists and MPs attended the funeral.
Abdullah was killed on Friday evening near the village of Alma Al-Shaab in southern Lebanon when an Israeli shell landed on a group of international journalists covering an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters along the border.
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry criticized the killing of “unarmed journalists who are victims of their desire to convey the truth and defend it with their cameras and pens … reporting on the series of repeated Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon.”
The complaint highlighted the “escalating Israeli provocations and attacks last week, and the damages they caused to lives and property, and the ongoing violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and Resolution 1701, which Lebanon has affirmed its keenness to implement and abide by in all its aspects.”
The ministry said that Lebanon held Israel “responsible for the current escalation.”
It warned that “failing to end what (Israel) is doing will ignite the entire region and threaten international peace and security, and the interests of the entire world.”
Issam Abdullah was killed, while Eli Brakhia, Al Jazeera’s correspondent; Christina Assi, Agence France-Presse’s correspondent; Carmen Joukhadar, Al Jazeera’s correspondent; Iraqi journalist Maher Mohammed Abdul Latif from Reuters; Iraqi journalist Thaer Zuhair Kadhim from Reuters; and US journalist Dylan Collins were injured in the Israeli shelling.
The first shell fell near the press group, while a second fell on the journalists’ car.
The Lebanese army rushed to rescue the injured and asked other media personnel to leave the area.
The wounded are still receiving hospital treatment.
AFP said that Christina Assi needed blood transfusions at the American University Medical Center in Beirut.
Her colleague, Carmen Joukhadar, had surgery on a leg wound.
In a statement on Saturday, the Lebanese army said that the Israeli shell had hit the civilian car, killing Abdullah and wounding others.
The army said that other areas in southern Lebanon at the time were targeted by an Israeli helicopter gunship and artillery, including the outskirts of the villages of Narwahin, Aita Al-Shaab, Kfar Shuba, Al-Adisa and the Marjayoun Plain.
Army command accused Israel of “directly targeting journalists.”
UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said: “At 5:20 p.m. on Friday, an intense exchange of fire took place between Lebanon and Israel in the vicinity of the towns of Alma Al-Shaab, Aita Al-Shaab, Al-Dhaira, Al-Adisa and Hula.
“We learned with great sadness that a Lebanese photojournalist was killed during the exchange of fire. There were also reports that other journalists were injured.”
Israel did not deny Friday’s incident but instead pledged, through its representative to the UN, Gilad Erdan, to “open an investigation.”
Erdan said: “We always try to limit and avoid civilian casualties.
“But we are in a war, and unfortunate things may happen. We will investigate the matter. It is too early now to know what happened there.”
According to reports, the fire exchange began when a Palestinian group tried to cross into Israeli territory from Lebanon, and detonated an explosive device in the separation wall.
However, the Israelis discovered the infiltrators, which resulted in a firefight and a Palestinian retreat.
An Israeli airstrike of the area soon followed.
Joseph Qasifi, head of the Syndicate of Press Editors, accused the Israeli “criminal machine” of “deliberately targeting journalists while they were carrying out their professional duty to convey the true picture of what is happening in southern Lebanon.”
Qasifi expressed his disappointment that some international media outlets reported the news of the Israeli attack but failed to mention the responsible party.
He added that reports on the incident needed to reflect a sense of humanity and professional commitment.
According to a source in the Press Syndicate, Reuters decided to “change the phrasing of its news after a wave of criticism on social media.”
However, the agency’s updated report was still criticized after it referred vaguely to “rocket fire from the direction of Israel.”
On Saturday, Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee threatened Lebanon via X: “The Lebanese government bears responsibility for every attack launched from Lebanon toward our country. Anyone who tries to violate the borders toward our lands will be killed.”
Throughout the night, Israeli forces fired flares into the sky of the southern region and several incendiary shells into the area surrounding the villages of the western sector, especially in the town of Alma Al-Shaab.