BEIRUT: American TV network NBC’s leading correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin was pulled out of Gaza Thursday after he reported the Israeli airstrike on a Gaza beach that killed four Palestinian children.
Mohyeldin had tweeted that just before the death of the children, he was “kicking a ball” with them on the beach. He provided the most detail on the death of the children, who ranged in age from 9 to 11 and were from the same family.
He conducted exclusive interviews with the victims’ parents and with a wounded child as they prepared to enter the operation room, and was later interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes to give his account.
Despite his extensive coverage, Mohyeldin was missing from the primetime newscast covering the incident, leading to complaints Wednesday from his fellow journalists. Although his recorded reports were used by the channel, Mohyeldin was not called to give a first-person perspective on the events.
The Intercept later reported that a top NBC executive, David Verdi, had ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.
The network has not officially commented on why Mohyeldin is no longer reporting from Gaza. But NBC executives reportedly told The Intercept that the decision was based on “security concerns,” in light of Israel’s decision to launch a ground offensive Thursday night.
However, just after removing Mohyeldin, the network decided to send its chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, into Gaza.
Adding to the controversy, Mohyeldin removed two posts from his Twitter and Facebook accounts in which he reported that a U.S. State Department spokesperson blamed Hamas for the Israeli killings.
“The U.S. State Department spokesperson just said that Hamas is ultimately responsible for Israel shelling and killing 4 boys who were cousins aged 9-11 because Hamas didn’t accept the cease-fire. Discuss among yourselves,” he had posted on Facebook.
After Mohyeldin’s controversial disappearance from social and broadcast media, the Twitter hash tag “#LetAymanReport” went viral, with the help of U.S. channels’ foreign correspondents.