Friday, 9 November 2007

Israeli Troops Attack Journalists in Gaza

'We could be clearly identified as press,' one said, 'but the troops kept firing'

With machinegun and rifle fire kicking up the sand around them, more than half a dozen Palestinian journalists crawled on their stomachs, desperately seeking cover beside their car, Nov. 8.

With their flak jackets clearly marked "press" and their cameras very much in evidence, some of them started screaming at the Israeli soldiers to stop firing. Others quickly got on mobile phones or radios, trying to summon help.

Article first published by Ohmynews International

"Journalists, including cameramen from a couple of different agencies, came under intensive fire from Israeli tanks and undercover units as we were covering an incursion of Israeli troops into Gaza on Thursday morning," PressTV correspondent Yousef al-Helou said in his report.

In the television footage the journalists managed to shoot from cover, Israeli soldiers and armored vehicles could clearly be seen as they continued their incursion into the tiny village of Umm al-Nasser.

"We were all wearing press vests," he said, "we took shelter behind the car and were screaming for help." But the reporters were pinned down for more than an hour before they were evacuated by an ambulance.

Al-Helou reported there were also Israeli helicopters engaged in the operation. The aircraft would doubtless have provided the Israelis with very clear images of the cowering journalists and their equipment. This suggests that the attack on the journalists was quite deliberate.

"We were covering an Israeli incursion into Northern Gaza," PressTV cameraman Aiman al-Rass said later, "suddenly the Israelis opened fire on us.'

Al-Rass called on international organizations to lodge protests with the Israelis over the frequent attacks on Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip. "We would like to urge Reporters Without Borders and the Red Cross to put pressure on the Israelis to allow us to do our work."

Al-Helou said local human rights organizations have expressed their concern over the Israeli attacks on journalists.

Khalil Abu Shammalah, the director of the al-Dameer Human Rights Group told al-Helou that they have documented dozens of violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces against journalists.

"It is the responsibility of the international community to pressure the Israeli government and the Israeli occupation forces to respect the work of the journalists," he told PressTV.

Al-Helou said journalists working in Gaza are regularly subjected to "hazardous situations so it can be a dangerous job here."

The Israeli incursion in the north of the Gaza Strip came as Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak had been warning of an imminent "large scale" Israeli operation in the territory that Israel has already labeled as an "enemy entity."

Fortunately, none of the journalists involved in this attack were injured, though a few of them did need treatment in a local hospital for shock.

In October, Fayez Khurshid, PressTV's correspondent in Kabul was abducted and severely beaten by U.S. forces in the country. Khurshid later told PressTV that during his interrogation his family had been threatened and he'd been warned to stop working for Tehran-based PressTV "or else."

This article is based in part on reports filed by correspondent Yousef al-Helou in Gaza

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1 comment:

John said...

Nice reporting Chris. Who knows? Maybe sometime very soon you are going to be on the frontline in Tehran. Hope all is going well.