Israel blasts US media over alleged Hamas-tied journalists, CNN cuts ties with grenade-wielding photographer

CNN has formally cut ties with freelance photojournalist Hassan Eslaiah, who has provided coverage of Hamas’s activities in Gaza for CNN, the Associated Press, and Reuters.

A smiling Eslaiah was photographed receiving a kiss on the cheek from the “Butcher of Khan Younis,” Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, according to multiple reports.

In a video he reportedly posted on his Facebook page, Eslaiah is seen riding a motorcycle while brandishing a grenade “on his way to the Massacre of innocents in Israel,” according to Yaari Cohen of Israel’s Foreign Ministry office.

“Quick reminder – here is Yahya Sinwar, leader of #Hamas in Gaza kissing the very same @CNN @AP @Reuters freelance journalist,” Cohen wrote in another post. “Anyone said journalistic integrity?”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the West’s mainstream media for working with freelance photojournalists who are embedded with Hamas.

“The National Public Diplomacy Directorate in the PMO views with utmost gravity that photojournalists working with international media joined in covering the brutal acts of murder perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7th in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu’s office stated Friday on X. “These journalists were accomplices in crimes against humanity; their actions were contrary to professional ethics.”

The outrage came in response to an investigation by HonestReporting, a media watchdog group.

They questioned the presence of the Gaza-based photojournalists with Hamas terrorists on October 7.

“What were they doing there so early on what would ordinarily have been a quiet Saturday morning?”  the group asked. “Was it coordinated with Hamas? Did the respectable wire services, which published their photos, approve of their presence inside enemy territory, together with the terrorist infiltrators? Did the photojournalists who freelance for other media, like CNN and The New York Times, notify these outlets?”

“Judging from the pictures of lynching, kidnapping and storming of an Israeli kibbutz,” HonestReporting continued, “it seems like the border has been breached not only physically, but also journalistically.”

“Four names appear on AP’s photo credits from the Israel-Gaza border area on October 7: Hassan Eslaiah, Yousef Masoud, Ali Mahmud, and Hatem Ali,” the outlet notes. “Eslaiah, a freelancer who also works for CNN, crossed into Israel, took photos of a burning Israeli tank, and then captured infiltrators entering Kibbutz Kfar Azza.”

In posts he has since deleted from X, Eslaiah shared pictures of himself standing in front of the Israeli tank. Noticeably missing was a press vest and a helmet, the New York Post reports.

In response to the article, Israel Minister of Communications Dr. Shlomo Karhi fired off a letter to Reuters, the Associated Press, CNN, and The New York Times — all of whom were named in Honest Reporting’s investigation.

“The gravity of the situation demands a swift and thorough response. It is now a time for individuals, journalists, institutions, unions, and organizations around the world to make a clear choice,” he wrote. “We must decide whether we stand on the side of life and good and on the side of depraved terrorism, inhumanity, and evil.”

In response, Reuters denied “suggestions by media advocacy group HonestReporting that it and other international news organisations had prior knowledge of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians and soldiers.”

“Reuters categorically denies that it had prior knowledge of the attack or that we embedded journalists with Hamas on Oct. 7,” Reuters said.

“Reuters acquired photographs from two Gaza-based freelance photographers who were at the border on the morning of Oct. 7, with whom it did not have a prior relationship,” it continued. “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.”

CNN took more decisive action.

“We are aware of the article and photo concerning Hassan Eslaiah, a freelance photojournalist who has worked with a number of international and Israeli outlets,” CNN told YnetNews on Thursday morning. “While we have not at this time found reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work he has done for us, we have decided to suspend all ties with him.”

The Associated Press, meanwhile, echoed Reuter’s statement, claiming in a statement of its own that it “had no knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks before they happened.”

“The first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began,” it explained. “No AP staff were at the border at the time of the attacks, nor did any AP staffer cross the border at any time.”

Like CNN, the AP has cut ties with Eslaiah, writing, “We are no longer working with Hassan Eslaiah, who had been an occasional freelancer for AP and other international news organizations in Gaza.”

The New York Times called the accusation of having advanced knowledge about the Hamas attacks “untrue and outrageous” and called the allegations “unsupported.” The Times went on to admit that they had worked with Masoud since the day of the barbaric attack on Israel and made a blanket statement defending freelance journalists who work in “conflict areas.”


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