DAMASCUS, Syria — A pro-government Syrian TV correspondent was killed today while covering clashes near the border with Lebanon, the Information Ministry said, in the latest death of a journalist in Syria’s more than 2-year-old conflict.
Yara Abbas, a prominent female war reporter for state-owned Al-Ikhbariyah TV, was attacked by rebels near the military air base of Dabaa in the central province of Homs, the ministry said in a statement carried by Syrian state television. It gave no further details.
Dozens of journalists have been killed, wounded or kidnapped since Syria’s crisis began in March 2011. Over that time, more than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists around the country, said Abbas was killed by sniper fire that also wounded some of her colleagues.
Dabaa air base is near the town of Qusair, which has been under attack by government forces and members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group since last week. Dozens of rebels, troops and Hezbollah members have been killed in the heavy fighting that entered its 9th day today.
The fighting in Qusair is one of hundreds of battles raging across Syria in a civil war that has devastated the country’s cities and infrastructure and caused immense human suffering.
Journalists covering the conflict, on both the government and rebel sides of the front lines, have been caught in the crossfire — or targeted — on several occasions.
Syria’s state-run Al-Thawra daily reported last week that nine journalists and 23 other crew members working for state-run media have been killed in the country over the past two years.
Several foreign reporters also have lost their lives covering the conflict, including award-winning French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier, photographer Remi Ochlik and Britain’s Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin. Also, Anthony Shadid, a correspondent for The New York Times, died after an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.
Journalists have also increasingly become targets for kidnapping. In August last year, a crew from Al-Ikhbariyah television was abducted by anti-government forces before being later rescued by Syrian troops.
In December, NBC correspondent Richard Engel and his crew were detained by pro-regime gunmen in northern Syria. After his release, Engel said they escaped unharmed during a firefight between their captors and anti-regime rebels.
James Foley, a 39-year-old American journalist, has been missing in Syria since late last year. Foley has worked in a number of conflict zones around the Middle East, including Syria, Libya and Iraq. He was contributing videos to Agence France-Press while in Syria.
Amnesty International said on May 3 that Syria’s government and elements of the rebel movement are deliberately targeting journalists, releasing a report which doled out blame for both sides in the country’s civil war.
The London-based rights group acknowledged that the journalists’ deaths — numbering somewhere between 44 and 100, depending on who does the counting — represent only “a miniscule fraction” of a death toll.