The war between Israel and Hamas is causing unprecedented and deadly harm to journalists.

On October 13, a group of journalists gathered on the border between Israel and southern Lebanon to provide live coverage to Reuters. They were reporting on an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and the Lebanese group Hezbollah when an Israeli shell exploded nearby, killing a video operator and injuring six others. "So many journalists pay with their lives to bring the truth to everyone," lamented UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, expressing condolences to the families of the victims.

This tragedy is now one of many examples of the unprecedented losses suffered by journalists since the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7. As of November 2, international organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) estimate that at least 35 journalists and media workers have been killed, the majority of whom are local residents of Gaza.

According to CPJ, the first few weeks of this war have been the deadliest period for journalists covering a conflict since 1992 when the group began tracking such incidents. "Deadliest period means the highest number of deaths within a specific number of days," explained a CPJ representative in an email. "In this case, it's 26 days from the start of the war on October 7, 2023."

"We cannot ignore the mortality rate of journalists in the Gaza Strip," said Christophe Deloire, the Secretary-General of RSF, to TIME. "These numbers are worse than the casualties during the Russia-Ukraine war, and it shows that what is happening is incredibly shocking."

Journalists reporting on the conflict from Gaza City are working in particularly dangerous conditions amidst Israeli airstrikes, a ground invasion, and disruptions in power supply and communications. "Due to the current media blackout, it has become impossible for journalists to work in the Gaza Strip," Deloire added.

Moreover, they face risks such as attacks, arrests, censorship, and the killing of their family members. In one case, Wael ad-Dahduh, a reporter for Qatar's Al Jazeera network, was live-streaming footage of the besieged territory on October 28 when he received news that his wife, teenage son, and daughter had been killed as a result of an Israeli airstrike. Moments later, during the live broadcast, Dahduh was seen entering Al-Aqsa Hospital and discovering his son's body in the hospital morgue.

On Wednesday, RSF called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the deaths of eight Palestinian journalists, whom it claims were killed due to Israeli bombings of civilian areas in Gaza, as well as the killing of an Israeli journalist during Hamas's sudden attack in southern Israel. The complaint also mentions the "intentional, total, or partial destruction of more than 50 media premises in the Gaza Strip" since the start of the war. "The seriousness and frequency of journalist killings are such that we are calling on the ICC to investigate these deaths," Deloire stated.

This is RSF's third complaint filed since 2018, alleging that Palestinian journalists in Gaza have been victims of war crimes. According to international humanitarian law and the ICC's Rome Statute, even if journalists become casualties of legitimate military targets, the attack constitutes a war crime if it still caused "clearly excessive and disproportionate harm to civilians," as stated in the complaint.

Furthermore, RSF's preliminary findings from an ongoing investigation of the October 13 incident indicated that journalists were not collateral victims of gunfire but rather targets, based on video evidence and witness testimonies. A representative of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the incident by calling the deaths "tragic" and expressing their "deep regret," but they did not acknowledge Israeli responsibility.

Israel, which is not among the 123 member states on which the ICC has jurisdiction, argues that the court lacks jurisdiction in this conflict. The IDF also informed Reuters and Agence France-Presse that they cannot guarantee the safety of their journalists working in Gaza, stating that "the IDF is tracking all Hamas military activity across the entire Gaza Strip" and urging them to take all necessary measures for their safety in these circumstances.

CPJ continues to call on warring parties not to target journalists, emphasizing that they are "civilians performing a vital function during a crisis," according to a statement by Sherif Mansour, the coordinator of CPJ's Middle East and North Africa programs.

Deloire of RSF adds that while journalists have always played a crucial role in wars and conflicts, their work is especially vital during the war between Israel and Hamas when disinformation is "incredibly high" and easier to spread. "A war without journalists is simply a war of propaganda."