The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed deep concern over an Israeli drone strike in Gaza, which left two Al-Jazeera journalists severely injured near Rafah on Tuesday. CPJ is calling for an independent investigation to determine if the journalists were intentionally targeted.

Ismail Abu Omar, an Al-Jazeera Arabic reporter, and Ahmed Matar, a freelance camera operator and photojournalist, were on assignment in Miraj, north of Rafah, covering the plight of displaced Palestinians when they were struck by the Israeli drone, according to media reports. Both journalists were clearly identified as press and were carrying equipment, as confirmed by Al-Jazeera.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator in Washington D.C., emphasized the need for an independent inquiry, stating, “We are deeply alarmed by this new attack and call for an independent investigation into whether the journalists were targeted, which constitutes a war crime.”

Mansour further condemned the incident, highlighting the dangers journalists face in Gaza: “The Israeli drone strike that injured critically Al-Jazeera reporter Ismail Abu Omar and freelance camera operator and photojournalist Ahmed Matar is another horrific example of the high personal price that journalists in Gaza are paying to cover the war so that the world can witness what is happening.”

Al-Jazeera issued a statement asserting that the journalists were deliberately targeted, describing the incident as “a full-fledged crime added to Israel’s crimes against journalists, and a new part in the series of the deliberate targeting of Al Jazeera’s journalists and correspondents in Palestine.”

Video footage posted by Al-Jazeera Arabic showed Abu Omar lying injured on the ground following the attack, while photographs of the damaged motorcycle were shared by the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hadath.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s order to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah, coupled with the impending assault on the city, has drawn condemnation from various international bodies and humanitarians.

CPJ has documented numerous casualties among journalists covering the conflict, including the recent deaths of Al-Jazeera’s Samer Abu Daqqa, Hamza Al Dahdouh, and Mustafa Thuraya in Israeli drone strikes. The organization continues to advocate for independent investigations into these attacks.

In a separate development, the Israeli cabinet approved a law allowing the closure of Al-Jazeera in the country, a move previously criticized by CPJ.

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