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Israeli Occupation Murders Journalists in Gaza

Israeli occupation forces (IOF) killed Aqsa TV cameramen Salamah and Al-Komi- MADA demands [1] the formation of an international investigation commission

Ramallah- 21 November 2012: Israeli occupation forces committed a new crime against the Palestinian journalists when they killed Al-Aqsa TV cameramen Mahmoud Al-Komi (30 years) and Hossam Salameh (30) years at about six o’clock in this evening, after their car was targeted In Gaza City, by a Missile fired from an Israeli warplane, which led to their deaths immediately.

MADA lawyer Karem Nashwan said that Salamah and Al-Komi were travelling in Al-Aqsa TV car, with press sign, but the occupation forces targeted it. The crime took place in Alnaser (Victory) Street near alshifa Tower near Alshifa Hospital, and it seems they had intended to go to cover the martyrs and the wounded in the hospital, where occupation forces have escalated from its bombardment of the Gaza frantically through the last few hours, where about twenty martyrs fell. Al-Komi and Salamah were married and each of them has four children.

This heinous crime comes as part of the ongoing Israeli attacks on Palestinian journalists since the beginning of the aggression on the Gaza Strip since seven days, and the Israeli attacks on them for decades, where twenty journalists have been killed over the past decade, four of them during the Israeli aggression on Gaza at the beginning of 2009.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) expresses condolences to their families, and repeats condemnation of this crime, which is considered a breach flagrant of the international conventions that protect journalists .MADA demands the formation of an international investigation committee, and hold accountable those responsible for this crime and crimes committed against Journalists. Israeli impunity for its crimes against journalists encouraged them to commit more of them.

Reporters Without Borders has condemned Israeli missile attacks on two media centers in Gaza [2]

Reporters Without Borders [3] condemns Israeli air strikes targeting news organizations in Gaza City today and calls for an immediate end to such attacks. At least nine journalists were reportedly injured and several local and international media were prevented from operating.

“These attacks constitute obstruction of freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We remind the Israeli authorities that, under humanitarian law, the news media enjoy the same protection as civilians and cannot be regarded as military targets.

“Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks. We call for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of these air strikes. Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified.”

At around 2 a.m. today, Israeli warplanes fired several missiles at the Al-Shawa Wa Hassri Tower, a building in the Gaza City neighborhood of Rimal that houses local and international media organizations. Around 15 reporters and photographers wearing vests with the word “TV Press” were on the building’s roof at the time, covering the Israeli air strikes.

Five missiles destroyed the 11th-floor offices used by Al-Quds TV. The station said six journalists were injured, four of them Al-Quds employees – Darwish Bulbul, Khadar Al-Zahar, Muhammad al-Akhras and Hazem al-Da’our. The other two were identified as Hussein Al-Madhoun, a freelance photographer working for the Ma’an news agency, and Ibrahim Labed, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency SAFA. Zahar’s condition was described as critical after one of his legs had to be amputated.

At around 7 a.m., three Al-Aqsa TV employees were seriously injured when two missiles were fired at the Al-Shourouk building, also known as the “journalists’ building.” A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces said on the @IDFSpokesperson Twitter account that the air strike had targeted a Hamas communication centre.

Among the local and international media whose offices were damaged by Israeli missiles were Sky News Arabia, the German TV station ARD, the Arab TV stations MBC and Abu Dhabi TV, Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Russia Today and the Ma’an news agency.

Information was also one of the victims of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009 (read the RWB report). At the time, Reporters Without Borders condemned Israel’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone” and deny access to journalists working for international media. The IDF also targeted pro-Hamas media during Operation Cast Lead.

IFJ Calls for Probe into Media Targeting in Gaza Violence

The International Federation of Journalists [4] (IFJ) today called on the international community to investigate deliberate attacks by Israeli military against media buildings in Gaza.

At least six journalists were injured, including cameraman Khader al Zarah who lost a leg after their offices came under sustained bombing from Israel’s military which targeted in the early hours of Sunday Al Shawa and Husari where several media organisations, including Hamas’ TB Al Quds TV, Al Qudsa radio, Maan network and many other radio stations are based. Another media facility, the Asshurouq building, which houses Sky, ITN, Al Arabiya TV and Abu Dhabi TV was also attacked.

“We demand a full inquiry by the United Nations to investigate the attacks and to take action against the Government of Israel,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “The international community must respond immediately to this outrage. The rights of journalists in conflict zones have been particularly highlighted by the United Nations and members states cannot stand by when one state acts in a reckless and dangerous manner.”  

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) condemned the bombing and the National Federation of Israeli Journalists (NFIJ), has called for the respect of journalists’ safety.

The Israeli authorities reportedly told the Foreign Press Association in Israel that the army targeted the antenna on the media buildings but journalists who escaped from the Al Quds TV building told the PJS affiliate that three floors of the building were bombed.

The IFJ says that these recent attacks serve as a reminder of the government’s failure to protect journalists covering armed conflicts.  The Federation recalls a similar direct assault on media houses took place the 22-day military offensive by the Israeli army on Gaza in 2009.

The issue of journalists’ protection  is scheduled to be debated at a UN Inter-agency meeting in Vienna next week and the Federation is urging the UN to take governments to task over their international obligations on this matter.

“The reckless intimidation of media by the Israeli Defense Force on a shocking scale should not go unpunished. If it does, it leaves journalists and media exposed to the threat of attack in any conflict at any time in the future,” added Boumelha

Arab Journalists Demand UN to Open Formal Investigation into Israeli Attacks on Journalists in Gaza

Journalists’ leaders representing 14 journalists’ syndicates and associations in the Arab World currently gathered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, strongly condemn the attacks of the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip and the deliberate targeting of journalists and media staff.

The participants, gathered to discuss press freedom in the Arab World and the protection given for killers of journalists and impunity, condemn and denounce the Israeli army’s deliberate attack on the headquarters of media organizations in Gaza on the morning of the 18th of November 2012, in particular ‘Quds TV’. The attacks injured at least six journalists, including photographer Khader al-Zahar, who lost his leg as a result.

The participants believe that the Israeli army attacks on Palestinian journalists and media in Palestine, and Gaza in particular, is part of a systematic and deliberate plan used by the Israeli occupation authorities to cover up the heinous practices and killings and destruction committed against the Palestinian people.

The participants support the Palestinian journalists and media professionals in their plight and support the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in their demands to the United Nations to form an international commission of inquiry into the crimes of the occupation, to question and punish the perpetrators of these crimes and the violations against journalists and media organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Participants consider this attack to be a violation of international law and international humanitarian law, including the UN Security Council Resolution 1738, which criminalizes the intentional targeting of journalists in conflict zones. They further warn that failure to hold accountable and punish those responsible for this incident would be considered as providing a license from the international community to the Israeli authorities to keep on targeting the media and journalists.

The President of International Federation of Journalists, Jim Boumelha, who is participating in the conference, said: “We demand the United Nations to set up a committee to carry out a full investigation into these attacks and take action against the Israeli government. Moreover, the international community must respond immediately to this heinous act. The United Nations confirmed in particular the rights of journalists working in conflict areas and member states cannot stand by when one state acts in a reckless and dangerous manner.”

The participants appealed to their colleagues in the international community of journalists and union members in the International Federation of Journalists to express their solidarity with their fellow Palestinian journalists and their right to work in a safe and free environment. The participants recommended the International Federation of Journalists to work in collaboration with member unions in the region to continue organizing training courses, professional safety trainings and awareness activities for journalists and media professionals.

Participating unions include: Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Jordan Press Association, the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, journalists Association of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain Journalists Association, Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, Omani Journalists Association, Sudanese Journalists Union, National Union of Somali Journalists, Algerian journalists’ union, National Union of the Moroccan Press, Mauritanian Journalists Syndicate, Mauritanian Journalists’ Association.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada)

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) monitored fresh attacks on journalists and media outlets on 18th and 19th November 2012. These violations occur as part of the continued targeting of journalists and media outlets in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

Palmedia cameraman, Samer Hamad informed MADA that the occupation forces prevented his reporting of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the Dar Salah region near the city of Bethlehem this morning. Hamad added: “They prevented me and my colleagues, the photographers Mousa Al-Shaaer and Luay Sababa, from coverage. The soldiers were pushing us and they put their hands on the cameras whenever we tried filming. They took my car keys until I stop coverage, but they returned them later. We told them that we are journalists, but they did not care and continued to prevent us from coverage and pushing us”.

In another incident, a female Israeli soldier attempted to assault Muna Hasan, a correspondent of Raya FM radio this morning as she reported on clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the area of Jabal Almokaber in Jerusalem. According to Muna, the Israeli soldier prevented her from covering the events, pushed her several times and raised her hand to physically assault her, before she managed to escape. Muna added: “She screamed at me several times and she said to me “Get out of here”, but I did not care her”.

On Sunday 18th November 2012, French Agency photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk and fellow agency colleague Ahmed Grabula attempted to cover the clashes at Qalandia checkpoint. Abu Turk stated: “When we started filming a group of soldiers approached us, so we showed them our press cards so they left us. But one of the officers pushed me several times during the covering, so i went away from the soldiers.” He added: “During imaging I noticed that two soldiers are talking , laughing and looking at me, I felt that they were planning to target me, so I tried to withdraw from the region, but a sniper fired at me bullet with iron coated with rubber hitting my neck. Fortunately I was wearing a leather jacket and the belt of the camera saved my neck, I received treatment in the field”. Abu Turk concluded: “I’ve been a photographer for 30 years, for the second time I feel that I’m targeted for killings by the Israeli occupation forces only for covering events”.

On Sunday 18th November 2012, Israeli occupation forces also attacked Palestine TV correspondent Ali Dar Ali while reporting on clashes near the Israeli Ofer camp. Ali informed MADA that as he covered the clashes, rubber bullets were being fired indiscriminately at young Palestinians; one of the bullets hit his waist, causing redness and swelling. Ali added: “We have been deliberately being targeted where the press signs were obvious, and I was holding the microphone and the cameraman was holding a camera. There is no doubt that we are journalists”.

Since the commencement of the aggression on Gaza six days ago, the occupation forces have started to interfere with radio and local television stations and penetrate their frequencies. Rabah Marzouk, Executive Director of Quds Radio in Gaza informed MADA that since the second day of the Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, the occupation army has seized the radio station’s airwaves and broadcast information to the people in Gaza “warning them not to cooperate with the Palestinian resistance”. This message was repeated on several occasions in addition to interfering with the station’s operations. Interfering through ‘jamming’ is not considered as important an issue as physically seizing a station’s airwaves and broadcasting messages from the occupation army. The frequencies of other stations have also been seized, including Radio Al-Aqsa, and an Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed such actions in a statement to the AFP agency: “We controlled Hamas television and broadcasted warnings”.

Ahmed Kherti, director of audio engineering at Sawt Alshaab radio station informed MADA of the Israeli army’s interferrance with the station’s airwaves and control of its frequencies. Warning messages for the people of Gaza were broadcasted, instructing them to stay away from the resistance, from Hamas positions and from eastern regions (the border area). The radio’s website was hacked and pictures of the Israeli flag along with phrases such as “peace for Israel” and “Israel is under threat” were posted. Other Palestinian news sites were also subjected to intense hacking attacks, a number of whom were forced to stop working for hours or days on end, including the SAFA and Pal Today agencies.

Sunday 18th November 2012, the Israeli Occupation Forces bombed the Shawa, Alhusari and Alshurouq towers, warning foreign journalists to evacuate the Alshurouq tower in particular. Many offices and employees of local, Arab and international media outlets operate in Gaza and this latest aerial assault has placed yet more obstacles in the path of journalists and media reporting. MADA issued a statement on Sunday 18th November 2012 denouncing the Israeli occupation strike against media headquarters and another press release in condemnation of killing the baby son of Arabic BBC journalist, Jihad Mashharawi, through the bombing and destruction of his home.

MADA center renews its condemnation of the increasing number of attacks on journalists, which constitute a flagrant violation of international laws and conventions. MADA calls upon the International community to immediately intervene to protect journalists.