December 2, 2023

Photographs showing a freelance news photographer with Hamas sparked new theories about the organization’s attack on Israel.

A report from the news organization HonestReporting, which says its goal is “exposing anti-Israel media bias,” alleged that freelance photographer Hassan Eslaiah, among the first photographers to capture footage of the October 7 attack, had previously taken photographs with members of Hamas leadership. The report quickly drew outrage from supporters of Israel, who questioned if news outlets for which Eslaiah worked had prior knowledge of the attack.

Eslaiah did freelance work with several United States-based news outlets, including the Associated Press, Reuters and CNN.

However, the claim that news outlets had prior knowledge of the attack have not been backed up by evidence and remain unverified. Several news outlets have cut ties with Eslaiah following the report and say they did not know of the attacks before they occurred.

Photos of photojournalist fuel theories Israel attack
An Israeli army artillery howitzer moves near the Gaza strip in southern Israel on November 3, 2023. A new report showing a freelance photojournalist with Hamas leadership fueled new theories about the organization’s October 7 attack on Israel.
JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

One photograph reported by HonestReporting appeared to show Eslaiah with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. Another photograph, originally posted to X, formerly Twitter, appears to show him standing in front of an Israeli tank. Newsweek was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the photos.

The report also questioned if three other reporters were “embedded” with Hamas, pointing to their proximity to the area prior to the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s office released a statement condemning media working with Eslaiah.

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

Others took to social media to question whether news outlets had prior knowledge of the attack.

“Important expose by @honestreporting: Photographers working for AP, CNN, NYT, and Reuters were EMBEDDED with Hamas on 10/7 and accompanied the terrorist group into Israel. They knew the attack was coming, and participated in it,” political consultant Noah Pollack wrote to X.

Libs of TikTok, a popular right-wing X account, posted, “BOMBSHELL: Photographers working for AP, CNN, NYT, and Reuters accompanied Hamas terrorists into Israel on 10/7. They were ready and waiting to snap photos of the attack early Saturday morning. Did they know the attack was coming?”

News Outlets Cut Ties With Eslaiah

The Associated Press denied having any prior knowledge of the attacks in a statement released Thursday morning. When reached by Newsweek for additional comment, an AP spokesperson referred to the public press release.

“The first pictures AP received from any freelancer show they were taken more than an hour after the attacks began. 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,” the statement reads.

A CNN spokesperson told Newsweek on Thursday morning: “We had no prior knowledge of the October 7th attacks. Hassan Eslaiah, who was a freelance journalist working for us and many other outlets, was not working for the network on October 7th. As of today, we have severed all ties with him.”

CNN previously told The Daily Wire that although it has not found “reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work he has done for us, we have decided to suspend all ties with him.”

Newsweek reached out to CNN and Reuters via email for additional comment.