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Remembering Samer Abu Daqqa, Al Jazeera journalist killed in an Israeli attack


A Palestinian journalist was killed on Friday in a drone strike in southern Gaza. Samer Abu Daqqa was a cameraman for Al Jazeera. The network says ambulances and rescuers were unable to reach him because of the Israeli bombardment, leaving him to bleed to death for hours. Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief was also injured in the attack. Sixty-four journalists have been killed since the Israel-Hamas war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Fifty-seven of them were Palestinian. Ayman Mohyeldin is an anchor at MSNBC and worked with the cameraman in Gaza. Thank you so much for joining us.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN: Thank you for having me.

RASCOE: So I'm so sorry for your loss. Can you tell me about your colleague?

MOHYELDIN: Sure. I had the chance of working with Samer and meeting him in 2008, when I was actually based in the Gaza Strip as a correspondent at the time for Al Jazeera English. And I got to know Samer and his brother very, very well. And, you know, part of being within the Al Jazeera network is that you get to work with all of these amazing people who know the region and know the Gaza Strip extremely well. He was a very dedicated cameraman, somebody who loved his job. He was, as we say, a journalist's journalist, somebody who loves to shoot and film and then would come back and tell you the best pictures that he captured. He knew Gaza extremely well.

He was a very funny, very witty but also a very serious cameraman who took his job with a tremendous amount of professionalism. And one of the things that I remember the most about him was he was always a bit of a tech geek. He loved gadgets. He loved devices. He loved lenses and all kinds of camera gear. And because he wasn't able to get a lot of it or able to get in and out of Gaza quite easily, whenever I would go in and out of the Gaza Strip, I would always bring him back some equipment or some lens or something that he would want me to get for him, whether it's a new gadget or some new device for his phone.

So he was a person that was just extremely remarkable in every sense of the word. And he will be sorely missed as a journalist. But more than that, he was an amazing family man, a father of four, and somebody who loved his kids, so much so that he worked really hard to try to get them out of the Gaza Strip a couple of years ago.

RASCOE: NPR asked the Israeli military about his death. They didn't deny the attack and said the IDF, quote, "takes all operationally feasible measures to protect both civilians and journalists. The IDF has never and will never deliberately target journalists." What do you make of their response?

MOHYELDIN: Well, look. It's difficult for me to comment on the specifics of this incident just because I'm not in the Gaza Strip, and I wouldn't want to speculate on the circumstances. Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic have put out a statement based on the eyewitness accounts of the reporters that were there in which they describe the incident and their inability to actually get to Samer and save him, as you mentioned in your introduction. Al Jazeera was reporting that he was left for five hours bleeding. They tried to coordinate with the Israeli military. They tried to reach humanitarian organizations to be able to rescue him or try to get him an ambulance. That was unsuccessful, obviously.

But in terms of Israel's history with journalists, you know, one of the most, I think, infamous cases that the world knows about is the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. It was an incident in which the Israelis, in the beginning, said that they did not kill her, that she was killed by crossfire with Palestinians. But ultimately, as more and more evidence emerges, eyewitness accounts emerged, as video evidence emerged, that was not the case, and it became apparent that, in fact, Israel did kill Shireen Abu Akleh, who was a Palestinian American journalist. I think press organizations in the past have documented examples of grave concern in which Israelis have targeted journalists, including most recently in this war in southern Lebanon, in which Israel targeted a group of Lebanese journalists and killed them. So I think it is - it's a situation in which human rights organizations and press freedom organizations have expressed grave concerns in recent years.

RASCOE: That's Ayman Mohyaldin, an anchor at MSNBC. Thank you so much for joining us and remembering your friend.

MOHYELDIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.