CNN has severed ties with Gaza-based photojournalist Hassan Eslaiah after he was discovered to be embedded with terrorist group Hamas.
The news network said in a statement Thursday that their working relationship with the freelancer began after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel — attacks that the organization maintained it “had no prior knowledge of.”
“We had no prior knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks. Hassan Eslaiah, a freelance journalist who has worked with a number of international and Israeli outlets, was not working for the network on Oct. 7. As of today, we have severed all ties with him,” the statement read.
The decision came following a report from the pro-Israel watchdog group Honest Reporting that named several Gaza-based photojournalists working for major news media companies including CNN, The New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters and raised “ethical questions” regarding their proximity and relation to Hamas.
Of Eslaiah, Honest Reporting wrote that he “crossed into Israel, took photos of a burning Israeli tank and then captured infiltrators entering Kibbutz Kfar Azza.” The group also said that it “obtained screenshots of Eslaiah’s now-removed tweets on X in which he documented himself standing in front of the Israeli tank. He did not wear a press vest or a helmet, and the Arabic caption of his tweet read: ‘Live from inside the Gaza Strip settlements.’”
Additionally, an undated photo of Eslaiah posing in an embrace with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar (pictured above) resurfaced Wednesday, further raising concerns over the photographer’s relationship with the organization. Sinwar masterminded the Hamas attacks that killed 1,400 Israelis last month.
The watchdog group also leveled what The New York Times categorized as “vague allegations” against the Western news outlets of having preexisting knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks — an accusation that the companies uniformly denied Thursday.
AP, which also had a working relationship with Eslaiah, also ended their relationship with the photographer in the aftermath of the Honest Reporting’s findings.
“We are no longer working with Hassan Eslaiah, who had been an occasional freelancer for AP and other international news organizations in Gaza,” the AP said in a statement.
According to Mediaite, newly minted CNN CEO Mark Thompson addressed the claims against Eslaiah and their relationship with the freelancer in a Thursday morning editorial call, saying it was “unfortunate news.”
“We’ve discovered that a stringer may have been there during the attack with Hamas on Oct 7. CNN had no prior knowledge of the attack,” Thompson reportedly said.