BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station said three of its staff were killed Monday after the television crew came under attack in the Syrian town of Maaloula.
Al-Manar identified the men as reporter Hamzah Hajj Hassan, 29, technician Halim Allaw and cameraman Mohammad Mantash. Several other crew members were wounded, the station said.
With a shaken voice, a teary-eyed anchorwoman announced the death of Hassan and Allaw, saying “takfiri terrorists” killed the men while they were covering the Syrian army takeover of Maaloula, a predominantly Christian town not far from the Lebanese border.
The station also broadcast footage of the bullet-riddled four-wheel drive vehicle that the four men were traveling in when the attack took place.
Offering condolences to their families, Al-Manar described the men as “martyrs of freedom.”
Minutes later, the station announced that Mantash had died of wounds sustained during the attack.
The Hezbollah-affiliated TV channel reported earlier in the day that its four-member crew had come under fire.
“The Al-Manar team was shot at by armed groups when [they] were covering the Syrian army’s takeover of the Maaloula town in Qalamoun,” the report said.
The shooting came hours after Hezbollah-backed Syrian forces recaptured at least three border towns, including Maaloula, in Qalamoun, a mountainous region bordering Lebanon.
Al-Manar television has provided extensive coverage of the battles in the area in recent months, even accompanying and interviewing Syrian soldiers as the country's army launched an offensive to root out rebel groups.
Al-Manar General Manager Ibrahim Farhat said a remaining group of gunmen had hid in Maaloula and shot at Al-Manar’s two vehicles which he said were among other media outlets covering ground developments.
During a brief televised news conference, Farhat declined to say whether Al-Manar was a target.
“We will not hesitate to offer martyrs for the sake of the profession ... they were carrying out their professional duty in covering events,” he said.
Farhat also said that the bodies of the men were pulled from the scene and that they would be buried Tuesday in Lebanon.