IDF says Al Jazeera reporter wounded in Gaza is also a Hamas deputy commander

Military alleges Ismail Abu Omar, who filmed himself inside Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, serves in Hamas’s East Khan Younis Battalion

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Ismail Abu Omar, an Al Jazeera reporter is seen (left) in Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, and after being hit in a strike in south Gaza's Rafah on February 13, 2024. (Screenshot: X)
Ismail Abu Omar, an Al Jazeera reporter is seen (left) in Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, and after being hit in a strike in south Gaza's Rafah on February 13, 2024. (Screenshot: X)

Ismail Abu Omar, an Al Jazeera reporter who was wounded in an Israeli airstrike near southern Gaza’s Rafah on Tuesday, is a Hamas terror operative, Israel has said.

Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, said Wednesday that Abu Omar, in addition to working for the Qatari-owned station, serves as a deputy company commander in Hamas’s East Khan Younis Battalion.

On the morning of October 7, Abu Omar infiltrated into Israel and filmed from inside Kibbutz Nir Oz during Hamas’s onslaught, Adraee added.

Abu Omar’s right leg was blown off in the Tuesday drone strike, while doctors were trying to save the left one, Al Jazeera said, quoting an emergency physician.

Al Jazeera cameraman Ahmad Matar was also wounded.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said the two were hit in a strike from an Israeli warplane in the Moraj area.

Smoke billows during Israeli airstrikes over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 13, 2024. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

In a statement, Al Jazeera said that “targeting the reporter Ismail and cameraman Ahmad is a new episode in a series by the [Israeli] occupation deliberately targeting Al Jazeera crews.”

It also rejected the IDF’s allegation about Abu Omar’s role with Hamas.

“The network condemns the accusations against its journalists and recalls Israel’s long record of lies and fabrication of evidence through which it seeks to hide its heinous crimes,” the broadcaster said Thursday.

It added: “Al Jazeera’s employment policies stipulate that employees are not to engage in any political affiliations that may affect their professionalism.”

Earlier this week, the IDF revealed a trove of images and documents it said prove that another Al Jazeera reporter, Mohamed Washah, was a commander in Hamas’s military wing. Adraee said that documents recovered from the laptop revealed that Washah, 37, was a “prominent commander” in Hamas’s anti-tank missile unit, and in late 2022, began to work in research and development for the terror group’s air unit.

Two Al Jazeera journalists killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah were later accused by the IDF of being members of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups.

Hamza Wael Dahdouh, the son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh, and Mustafa Thuria, a video stringer for AFP who was also working for the Qatar-based TV outlet, were both killed in the January incident. A third journalist, Hazem Rajab, was seriously wounded, Al Jazeera said.

The IDF said its intelligence confirmed both were members of Gaza-based terror groups and were “actively involved in attacks against IDF forces.” It said Thuria was identified by a document found by troops in Gaza as a member of Hamas’s Gaza City Brigade, serving as a deputy squad commander in one of the battalions.

People check the car in which two journalists, Mustafa Thuria and Hamza Wael Dahdouh, were killed in a reported Israeli strike in Rafah in the Gaza Strip on January 7, 2024. (AFP)

Dahdouh, according to the IDF, was a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It said documents recovered by troops in Gaza reveal he served in Islamic Jihad’s electronic engineering unit, and previously was a deputy commander in the Zeitoun Battalion’s rocket force.

The Israel-Hamas war began when 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst through the Gaza border into southern Israel on October 7 and killed 1,200 people — most of them civilians — and abducted 253 people to Gaza, where 130 are still held hostage. Israel, in response, vowed to dismantle the military and governance capacities of the Gaza-ruling terror group and to secure the return of the hostages.

The war has wrought massive destruction in the Gaza Strip, with more than 28,000 people killed, according to Gaza-based Hamas health officials. That figure cannot be independently verified and includes some 10,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle and as a consequence of the terror groups’ own rocket misfires. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Israel denies targeting journalists and says it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians, blaming the high death toll on the fact that Hamas fights in densely populated urban areas and embeds itself deliberately among civilians who are used as human shields. In a statement on December 16, the Israeli army said “the IDF has never, and will never, deliberately target journalists.”

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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