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Oct. 7 Survivors Sue AP for Hiring Photojournalists Embedded with Hamas Terrorists

Hassan Eslaiah with Hamas commander Yahya Sinwar. Hassan Eslaiah
Hassan Eslaiah with Hamas commander Yahya Sinwar. Hassan Eslaiah

On Thursday, survivors of the Hamas Oct. 7 massacre on Israel initiated legal action against the Associated Press (AP) for allegedly assisting the terror organization by employing freelance photojournalists now accused of being embedded with the terrorists.

Israeli American and American attendees of the Nova music festival attacked by Hamas, along with relatives of the victims have initiated legal action against the news agency for compensation under the Antiterrorism Act, as stated in the federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday evening.

Lawyers from the National Jewish Advocacy Center (NJAC), a nonprofit organization, are representing the survivors. The lawyers allege that the major media company has materially supported terrorism by paying photojournalists associated with Hamas for images taken during and immediately after the Oct. 7 massacre.

The complaint alleges that there is "no doubt that AP's photographers participated in the October 7 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 lawsuit mentions four independent photographers whose photographs were bought and published by the AP, alleging that these individuals are acknowledged associates of Hamas who "gleefully embedded with the Hamas terrorists during the October 7 attacks."

"Federal law is clear; it is prohibited to provide material support to terrorists," Gabriel Groisman, a partner at Local State National (LSN) LSN Partners and one of the attorneys involved in bringing the case told The Foreign Desk.

"Companies and individuals alike cannot knowingly pay terrorists. This is exactly what we allege the AP did in this lawsuit by knowingly hiring a Hamas operative who participated in the October 7th barbaric attacks and then buying his photographs. By doing so, the AP not only materially supported Hamas but also aided and abetted the terror group by acting as its media arm to help their goal of spreading terror," Groisman said.

The complaint primarily revolves around a particular photojournalist named Hassan Eslaiah. Even prior to the violent invasion of Israel by terrorist groups, Eslaiah faced accusations of being associated with Hamas. The lawsuit alleges that Eslaiah was in close proximity to Hamas militants as they carried out attacks on innocent Israelis. The Associated Press terminated its relationship with Eslaiah in November.

The photojournalist captured some of the earliest and most extensive images of the Hamas attack from the location.

According to the New York Times, he acknowledged accepting transportation back to Gaza from Hamas terrorist fighters. However, he has refuted any prior knowledge of the attack or connections to the terrorist organization. The New York Times also received criticism for featuring his photos.

Eslaiah was photographed smiling alongside Hamas commander Yahya Sinwar, who kissed his cheek and draped his arm around the journalist in a 2020 image that circulated online after the attack. The accusation surfaced claiming he held a grenade while riding on a scooter with a member of Hamas in a video shared on social media, which he refuted when questioned by the Times. Lawyers assert that the Associated Press had been informed about Eslaiah's alleged connections with Hamas but continued to compensate him for his freelance contributions.

Inquiries regarding the loyalties of the photojournalists were initially brought up by Honest Reporting, a pro-Israel media monitoring organization, shortly after the attack. The organization suggested that six photographers from Gaza may have been privy to the attack beforehand, as they arrived early at the scene.

"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," the lawsuit alleges.

Groisman explained to The Foreign Desk that US law "provides a remedy for Americans for this kind of conduct."

"We are honored to bring this suit on behalf of five such Americans who were directly and devastatingly impacted by the October 7 Hamas attacks," he added.

The AP released a statement firmly refuting any prior awareness of the Oct. 7 assaults.

"The first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began," said Lauren Easton, vice president of AP's corporate communications, in a statement dated Nov. 9, 2023. "No AP staff were at the border at the time of the attacks, nor did any AP staffer cross the border at any time."

"We are no longer working with Hassan Eslaiah, who had been an occasional freelancer for AP and other international news organizations in Gaza," she added. The most recent photographs captured by Eslaiah and obtained by AP were taken on November 2, 2023.

Following Oct. 7, various watchdog groups and Israeli officials have revealed evidence of officials from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), journalists from Al Jazeera, and other entities supporting Hamas and their attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Despite the negative press coverage and international calls for a unilateral ceasefire, Israeli officials have vowed to continue their military campaign until Hamas and its supporters are destroyed.

Related Story: Netanyahu Slams AP, Reuters, CNN Over Reporters’ Questionable Coverage of Hamas on Oct. 7

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