Following the killing of several journalists, airstrikes on media headquarters and targeting of Al Jazeera offices, the Palestinian Journalist Union issued a statement condemning what they say is the deliberate targeting of journalists by Israeli forces.The statement comes in the midst of ongoing Israeli bombing of Gazan civilians and infrastructure.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, July 22nd and 23rd, airstrikes targeting the cell phone towers and power plants of Gaza have severely impacted communications between journalists in Gaza and the outside world.
The only cellphone company that operates in Gaza has announced that it will have to shut off service completely in the next couple of days, due to severe damage to its towers.
Since Israel’s offensive in Gaza began on July 8th, there have been a number of incidents in which the deliberate targeting of journalists in Gaza has been documented.
In the most recent incident, on Tuesday, Al Jazeera’s offices in Gaza City were fired upon. The office is located in the al-Jala Building, which houses reporters working for Al Jazeera, the Associated Press and the Doha Center for Freedom of the Press.
In the Al Jazeera incident, reporter Stefanie Dekker said, “Two very precise shots were fired straight into our building”, leading to the evacuation of all the reporters working there.
The Palestinian Journalist Union said in their statement, “We vehemently condemn such Israeli attacks against journalists in Gaza Strip and West Bank. These include injuring Palestine Today reporter Sami Thabet in a bombardment on Gaza-based Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital as well as shooting and injuring Palestine Today reporter Ahmad Al-Budeiri and Palestine TV reporter Sara Al- ‘Adra in Ramallah and Jerusalem.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued an advisory on Monday after a Palestinian cameraman was killed during the Israeli ground assault on Shuja’eyya, in eastern Gaza City.
According to the Committee, “Khaled Reyadh Hamad was working on a film for the local Continue Production Films about the dangers Palestinian medics face while working in Gaza, the company’s owner, Alaa Alool, told CPJ. Hamad was accompanying an ambulance in Shuja’eyya when the vehicle was hit by a shell fired by Israeli forces, Alool said. A second shell hit, killing the journalist and Fouad Jaber, a Palestinian medic, Alool said.”
The Israeli military responded that journalists were ‘being used as human shields’, but presented no evidence to support the claim. Evidence provided by on-the-ground witnesses and groups refutes Israel’s claim.
‘It is tragic that a cameraman documenting the dangers faced by medics seeking to help civilians caught in this relentless fighting should himself be killed,’ said Sherif Mansour. CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. ‘Journalists in Gaza are not allowing themselves to be used as shields. They are trying to do their job. As such, they should be treated as civilians and afforded protection under international law.’
Journalists have also been targeted by Israeli civilians. On Tuesday, July 21st, Firas Khatib with BBC Arabic was attacked while giving a live report from Ashkelon.
Prior to Israel’s invasion of Gaza, the international group Reporters Without Borders had documented a number of incidents of targeting of journalists, beginning in early June.
The group reported:
“On 5 July, a team from the Palestine Today TV station came under Israeli army fire while broadcasting live from the scene of confrontations in Al-Tur neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Journalist Ahmed Al-Budeiri was wounded in the shoulder and stomach. His cameraman, Ahmed Jaber was hit in the eye. Technician Walid Matar, suffered a head wound. Meanwhile, Ahmed Al-Khatib, a correspondent for the Hamas station, Al-Aqsa TV was arrested in Tulkarem.
“A few days earlier, on 2 July, a large number of journalists covering demonstrations at Shufat, following the murder of a young Palestinian were wounded by fire from Israeli security forces.
“Tali Mayer, a photographer for the Activestills site and Walla News! was seriously wounded by a sponge-tipped bullet to the face. Her colleague, Oren Ziv, was hit in the arm.” The full list of incidents in June and early July is documented on the group’s website.