AP rejects the case as 'baseless'

Survivors, families of those killed at Nova festival on Oct. 7 file suit against AP

Federal complaint filed in Florida against news agency over its ties to freelance photojournalists accused of being embedded with terrorists during Hamas massacre

Hamas terrorists near Kibbutz Nir Oz during the massacre on October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)
Hamas terrorists near Kibbutz Nir Oz during the massacre on October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)

A number of survivors of the Hamas October 7 attack on Israel and families of victims of the unprecedented terror assault have filed a lawsuit against the Associated Press, accusing the news agency of being complicit in the Palestinian terror group’s killing spree over four months ago by working with freelance photojournalists they believe were embedded with the thousands of terrorists who overran southern communities.

The plaintiffs are dual Israeli-US nationals and Americans who attended the Supernova music festival at Kibbutz Re’im on October 7, where terrorists massacred some 360 in and around the area, as well as families of those killed.

They filed a federal complaint on Wednesday night in the Southern District of Florida suing the AP for damages under the Antiterrorism Act. They are being represented by the National Jewish Advocacy Center which accuses the AP of “materially supporting terrorism” by purchasing images during and after the October 7 attack, when thousands of terrorists killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 253 into Gaza.

The lawsuit names four freelance photographers whose work was bought and published by the AP and other outlets, claiming they are “known Hamas associates who were gleefully embedded with the Hamas terrorists during the October 7th attacks.”

The four captured some of the earliest images, widely disseminated, of the shock attack as it was unfolding.

AP said the case was “baseless.”

In early November, pro-Israel watchdog group Honest Reporting published a report showing that photographers — including the four mentioned in the suit — used by the AP, Reuters, The New York Times, and CNN provided images taken as the attack was ongoing from the border area and from inside Israel — intimating they may have had advance knowledge of the assault.

Palestinians from the Gaza Strip enter Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7, 2023, amid a massive assault by the Hamas terror group. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)

The organization listed four photojournalists whose names appear in Associated Press pictures from the Israel-Gaza border area on October 7: Hassan Eslaiah, Yousef Masoud, Ali Mahmud, and Hatem Ali.

The complaint focuses mainly on Eslaiah, who, according to the Honest Reporting report, crossed the border into Israel and took pictures of a burning IDF tank. He also photographed attackers entering Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where dozens of civilians were massacred. The report said that in now-removed tweets posted to his X feed, Eslaiah was seen in front of the tank but not wearing a press vest that would identify him as a member of the media.

Mahmud and Ali both took pictures of people being abducted from Israel into Gaza, the report said.

Palestinian terrorists kidnap an Israeli civilian, center, later identified as 85-year-old Yaffa Adar, into the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023 (AP/ Hatem Ali)

The report also raised questions about the relationship between some of the photographers and the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza. Eslaiah appeared in a photo from 2020 being kissed by Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar. Eslaiah posted the photo on January 9, 2020.

AP, Reuters and The New York Times all denied having any prior knowledge of the October 7 attack. AP and CNN have also since severed ties with Eslaiah, who has denied any prior knowledge of the attack.

The New York Times said that Masoud, whose photographs of an Israeli tank captured by Hamas were used by the newspaper and AP, also did not know. His first photographs that day were filed 90 minutes after the devastating onslaught began.

After the denials, Honest Reporting said it was simply “raising questions” by publicly wondering whether Palestinian photojournalists who documented the assault and sent some of the first images had been tipped off in advance.

Gazans celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the broken Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Khan Younis, October 7, 2023. (AP/Yousef Masoud)

The lawsuit filed this week charges that “AP willfully chose to turn a blind eye to these facts, and instead profited from its terrorist photographer’s participation in the massacre through its publication of the ‘exclusive’ images, for which it certainly paid a premium, effectively funding a terrorist organization.”

“There is no doubt that AP’s photographers participated in the October 7th massacre, and that AP knew, or at the very least should have known, through simple due diligence, that the people they were paying were longstanding Hamas affiliates and full participants in the terrorist attack that they were also documenting,” the complaint alleged.

A house is on fire in Kibbutz Nir Oz during an attack by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, 2023. (AP/Hassan Eslaiah)

AP’s vice president of corporate communications Lauren Easton said in a statement Thursday that “The Associated Press has the deepest sympathy for those affected by the horrific Oct. 7 attacks in Israel” and that the “lawsuit filed Wednesday against AP for its reporting on the attacks is baseless.”

“AP had no advance knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks, nor have we seen any evidence – including in the lawsuit – that the freelance journalists who contributed to our coverage did. Allegations like this are reckless and create even more potential danger for journalists in the region,” she said.

In November, Easton said that “the first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began” at around 6:30 a.m. local time on October 7.

“No AP staff were at the border at the time of the attacks, nor did any AP staffer cross the border at any time,” she said. “We are no longer working with Hassan Eslaiah, who had been an occasional freelancer for AP and other international news organizations in Gaza.”

National Jewish Advocacy Center director Mark Goldfeder told the New York Post that “media organizations do not have any special right to act with impunity and pretend that they don’t know whom they are paying.”

“And as other cases have made clear, it does not matter that the people AP was paying, with whom they had longstanding relationships, were freelancers and not employees; the issue is that AP was furnishing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, not in what capacity the terrorists were cashing the checks.”

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