September 21, 2018

Israeli Defense Minister Claims Gaza Journalist Killed By IDF Was Part of Hamas

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed on April 10 that Gaza journalist Yasser Murtaja, who was killed by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) during the Hamas-led Gaza riots on April 6, was a member of Hamas.

Lieberman told reporters that Murtaja was “a member of the military arm of Hamas who holds a rank parallel to that of captain, who was active in Hamas for many years.” David Keyes, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted, “Turns out the “photographer” killed in Gaza was an officer in Hamas, a terrorist org that seeks Israel’s destruction. On Hamas’ payroll since 2011. Used his drone to collect intel on Israeli positions. Countless reporters called him a ‘journalist.’ Will they correct the record?”

Lieberman made it clear that Murtaga had put “himself in danger” by using a drone at the border.

“We’ve seen dozens of cases where Hamas terrorists used ambulances, dressed up as Red Crescent personnel and disguised themselves as journalists,” Lieberman said. “We won’t take any chances.”

Anonymous Israeli defense officials had told the Israeli news site Walla! on April 10 that Murtaja “was active in the [Hamas] security apparatus’s work on a daily basis and did much to help them.” The IDF has said that they are still investigating the matter.

Mutasem Murtaja, Mutaja’s brother, told the Associated Press that Lieberman was spreading “lies” about Murtaja.

“Yasser was filming the protests with simple cameras to show they are peaceful,” Mutasem said.

Per the Times of Israel, “family members, eyewitnesses, and fellow journalists repeatedly denied that” Murtaja was using a drone that day.

Murtaja co-founded a TV production company called Ain Media, which had received a $11,700 grant from the State Department shortly before Murtaja’s death. Murtaja had also been working for a Norwegian Refugee Council.

Back in 2015, Polish journalist Wojciech Cegielski wrote in a column for Haaretz that Hamas used journalists as human shields during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Cegielski cited an instance when a rocket was fired from between two Gaza hotels that housed “foreign press and some NGOs.”

“It was obvious that we journalists became a target,” Cegielski wrote. “If the IDF would strike back, we all would be dead. What would Hamas do? It would not be surprising to hear about the ‘cruel Zionist regime killing innocent and free press.'”