NEW YORK - NBC said Friday it was sending Middle East correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin back to the Gaza Strip this weekend after he left the region for unexplained reasons following his eyewitness report on the killing of four Palestinian boys on a beach this week.
The network praised Mohyeldin for his "extraordinary reporting" throughout the conflict in Gaza. NBC said that as with any news team in combat zones, deployments are constantly reassessed.
Mohyeldin's firsthand reports on the deaths of the four boys Wednesday were aired on the "Today" show and MSNBC, and he tweeted that he had played soccer with some of the victims shortly before the attack. But then his social media account went quiet, and when NBC's "Nightly News" reported on the deaths Wednesday, correspondent Richard Engel did the story and Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen.
4 Palestinian kids killed in a single Israeli airstrike. Minutes before they were killed by our hotel, I was kicking a ball with them #gaza— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) July 16, 2014
His absence was immediately noticed in the news world. When NBC refused to discuss the situation, there was much online speculation that the network had problems with his reporting. Mohyeldin, who has worked extensively in the Middle East and reported for Al Jazeera English before joining NBC in 2011, has received some criticism of his reporting from pro-Israeli groups.
In announcing his return to Gaza on Friday, NBC still would not discuss Mohyeldin's temporary absence. But the network made a point to compliment him.
"Ayman Mohyeldin has done extraordinary reporting throughout the escalation of the conflict in Gaza, filing 25+ reports over the past 17 days, including his invaluable and well-documented contribution to the story on the deaths of the four Palestinian children on Wednesday," the network said in a statement.
News organizations are usually reluctant to talk about security of its personnel in danger zones, or if some of their employees had been threatened.
While working at Al Jazeera English, Mohyeldin was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2011.
Tensions in the region affected another reporter, CNN's Diana Magnay, as she reported live Thursday on Israel's launch of a ground attack in Gaza. Magnay tweeted that she was surrounded by Israelis watching the action who cheered the explosions and threatened to "destroy our car if I say a word wrong."
Magnay called those who threatened her "scum," leading CNN to apologize Friday and reassign her to Russia.