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‘No different than terrorists’: Israel slams freelance journalists after report claims they had prior knowledge of Hamas attack

CNN and AP severed ties with one freelancer in the wake of the report.

 

Katherine Huggins

Tech

Israel is condemning journalists who it claims were aware of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack before it happened.

The backlash follows a report by the site HonestReporting which questioned if it is “conceivable to assume that ‘journalists’ just happened to appear early in the morning at the border without prior coordination with the terrorists.”

Though the piece was thin on evidence, it exploded immediately.

The government of Israel shared the report on its X account Thursday, writing: “Did these ‘journalists’ know about the impending Hamas attack and fail to warn relevant parties? The details of this discovery are still unfolding, but one thing is clear. This is a serious violation of journalistic ethics.”

Israel also posted about Hassan Eslaiah, a freelancer who has worked with the Associated Press and CNN.

According to HonestReporting, Eslaiah took photos of a burning Israeli tank as well as Hamas terrorists entering Kibbutz Kfar Azza. It updated its report after publication to include a resurfaced image of Eslaiah with Yahya Sinwar, a senior Hamas leader who masterminded the Oct. 7 attack.

Footage of Eslaiah on a motorbike holding a grenade on Oct. 7 was also widely shared on social media in the wake of HonestReporting’s report.

In response to the revelations regarding Eslaiah, both CNN and AP severed ties with the freelancer.

“The Associated Press had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened,” AP’s media relations director, Lauren Easton, said in a statement. “The first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began. No AP staff were at the border at the time of the attacks, nor did any AP staffer cross the border at any time.“

“We are no longer working with Hassan Eslaiah, who had been an occasional freelancer for AP and other international news organizations in Gaza,” she added.

A spokesperson for CNN similarly denied having prior knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks and said that Eslaiah was not working for the network the day of the attack.

“As of today, we have severed all ties with him,” the spokesperson told Puck News.

According to a Gaza writer on X, Eslaiah sent him timestamped photos to prove he was still inside Gaza when Hamas’ attack unfolded, adding that “he had no idea what was happening & rushed to a rooftop to take pictures of Hamas’ rockets thinking it was just another limited escalation & rocket fire.”

In response to the HonestReporting report, Reuters similarly denied having prior knowledge of the attack or embedding journalists with Hamas on Oct. 7.

“Reuters acquired photographs from two Gaza-based freelance photographers who were at the border on the morning of October 7, with whom it did not have a prior relationship,” the news agency said in a statement. “The photographs published by Reuters were taken two hours after Hamas fired rockets across southern Israel and more than 45 minutes after Israel said gunmen had crossed the border.”

“Reuters staff journalists were not on the ground at the locations referred to in the HonestReporting article,” it added.

Despite the outlets’ denials, the early publication of images of the attack has continued to raise questions and criticism.

“Journalists found to have known about the massacre, and still chose to stand as idle bystanders while children were slaughtered – are no different than terrorists and should be treated as such,” wrote former Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday.

Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate, part of the Prime Minister’s Office, called the freelancers “accomplices in crimes against humanity” whose “actions were contrary to professional ethics.” The Government Press Office sent a letter to the bureau chiefs of the AP, Reuters, CNN, and The New York Times asking for clarifications, Jewish Insider reported.

“The AP, Reuters, the NY Times, and CNN are going to be answering some tough questions about their practices in Gaza,” remarked U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday.

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