A squadron of Israeli soldiers invaded the headquarters of the WAFA News Agency in Ramallah, on Monday, offering no reason or justification for the invasion. After storming the offices with guns drawn, and terrorizing the journalists who were working there, the soldiers went back downstairs and out of the building. They then fired a dozen rounds of tear gas, from launchers in their jeep, some of which entered the window of the media office.
When the soldiers broke into the media office headquarters, the journalists working at their desks raised their hands, and some followed the soldiers with cameras, saying repeatedly “We are journalists!” in English, Arabic and Hebrew.
According to reporters with the WAFA News Agency, the soldiers broke into the broadcast receiver room and seized video tapes of the surveillance cameras, after forcing the staff to stay in one room.
Israel has a long history of going after journalists working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – particularly Palestinian media agencies, who have no recourse under Israeli law when they are attacked.
Just last month, on 12 November 2018, Israeli forces leveled the building housing the Al-Aqsa TV Media Agency in Gaza. The bombing of Al-Aqsa TV Headquarters took place about a half an hour following the end of a security meeting held by the Israeli leadership with the participation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at “Kiryah” Military Base, near Tel Aviv. This was followed by announcements on Israeli media that “the go-ahead was given to the Israeli army to carry out more severe attacks” on Gaza.
Al-Aqsa TV Director, Mr. Ibrahim Thaher, stated to the Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms (MADA) that the TV office had received a phone call from Israeli Intelligence in which it was informed that the headquarters would be destroyed. Accordingly, the headquarters were evacuated of staff immediately. Ten minutes later, drones began bombarding the headquarters with “warning” missiles, which was followed by a missile fired by F16 warplane, leading to the destruction of the headquarters and the interruption of transmission.
In 2012, a report by the international organization Human Rights Watch found that “Four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 fighting violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations.
“The attacks killed two Palestinian cameramen, wounded at least 10 media workers, and badly damaged four media offices, as well as the offices of four private companies. One of the attacks killed a two-year-old boy who lived across the street from a targeted building.
“The Israeli government asserted that each of the four attacks was on a legitimate military target but provided no specific information to support its claims. After examining the attack sites and interviewing witnesses, Human Rights Watch found no indications that these targets were valid military objectives.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said at the time, “Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so”.