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Action Alert – URGENT

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Three strikes on media offices. Three Palestinian journalists killed.

UPDATED: In addition to the photographs and Youtube link, this posting has 5 items:
1) Ma’an news: Israel’s bombing of Gaza journalists ‘heinous crime’;
2) Committee to Protect Journalists: Three journalists killed in airstrikes in Gaza;
3) Huffington Post: Israel Hits Agence France-Presse Building;
4) Daily Mail: Sky News offices damaged in missile attack by Israel;
5) International Federation of Journalists: IFJ Calls for Probe into Media Targeting in Gaza Violence;


Smoke billows as debris flies from the explosion at the Al-Aqsa TV station which injured six journalists. Photo by AP.


Cameraman Khader Zahar, who lost his leg in airstrike Saturday. Photo by Belalmd12

Watch this angry questioning of Mark Regev by Al Jazeera about the first media centre bombing.


Israel’s bombing of Gaza journalists ‘heinous crime’

By Ma’an news
November 20, 2012

BETHLEHEM — Palestinian press freedom group Mada on Tuesday slammed the killing of two Palestinian journalists in Gaza City as a “heinous crime.”

Mahmoud al-Koumi and Husam Salameh, both working for al-Aqsa TV, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a car near al-Wihda towers in Gaza City on Tuesday evening.

Two others were injured in the strike, medics said.

Mada said the journalists were traveling in an Al-Aqsa TV car marked with a press sign. Both men were 30-years-old and the father of four children.

The group condemned the strike as a “heinous crime … (and) a flagrant breach of the international conventions that protect journalists.”

Mada lawyer Karem Nashwan said that Salamah and Al-Komi appeared to have been traveling to Shifa hospital at the time of their death, to report on casualties from Israel’s intense bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

The group demanded an international investigation into the killings, and for accountability for crimes committed against journalists.

“Israeli impunity for its crimes against journalists encouraged them to commit more of them,” Mada said.



Three journalists killed in airstrikes in Gaza

Committee to Protect Journalists
November 20, 2012

New York–Two Israeli airstrikes killed three journalists in the Gaza Strip today, according to news reports. The fatal attacks followed a series of Israeli strikes earlier in the week that injured at least nine journalists and damaged news outlets.

Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, cameramen for the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, were covering events in the Al-Shifaa neighborhood of central Gaza when a missile hit their vehicle at around 6 p.m., according to a statement by Al-Aqsa TV. The statement said the journalists’ car was marked “TV” with neon-colored letters. The journalists suffered severe burns and died in a nearby hospital, the statement said. Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, confirmed the journalists’ deaths to Agence France-Presse.

“We’re alarmed by the mounting toll on journalists in Gaza,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Israeli airstrikes continue to put journalists in harm’s way. This reflects the risks journalists face while reporting on conflict, especially in such a densely populated area.”

A third journalist was killed when his car was hit by a missile this evening, The Associated Press reported citing a Gaza official. Initial local news reports identified the journalist as Mohamed Abu Aisha, director of the private Al-Quds Educational Radio. The reports said his vehicle was hit while he was driving in the Deir al-Balah neighborhood, but did not say whether Abu Aisha was reporting at the time. CPJ continues to investigate the circumstances of his death.

On Sunday and Monday, three Israeli airstrikes targeted two buildings that housed several international and local media outlets, according to news reports. Over a hundred Palestinians have been killed in strikes on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the seventh day this week. At least three Israeli civilians and a soldier have been killed by missiles fired by Hamas into Israel in the past week.

CPJ documented a wave of attacks against the media by Israel in a near-month-long barrage of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.



Israel Hits Agence France-Presse Building In Gaza Airstrike

By Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post
Novemver 20, 21, 2012

Israel’s strikes on buildings housing journalists in Gaza continued on Tuesday night, when the Israeli Air Force targeted a tower containing the offices of Agence France-Presse.

Sara Hussein, a reporter for the French agency, tweeted about the attack:

@sarahussein
Sara Hussein
The building housing @AFP offices in #Gaza have been hit in an apparent #Israel strike. Our staff are fortunately all safe, myself included.
November 20, 2012 9:28 pm via TweetDeck

Israel said that it was targeting a Hamas operations center in the building. It added that Hamas members “weren’t in the media building to be interviewed,” and told journalists to “stay away” from them, as they were being used by Hamas as human shields.

Abigail Hauslohner, the Cairo bureau chief for the Washington Post who is reporting from Gaza, had a tart response to the tweets. “Nothing like a good threat before bed,” she wrote, before tweeting at the Israeli Defense Forces account, “Seriously, if Hamas is in room 208 (I’m in 209), tell me now.”

It is the third Israeli attack on a media building in three days. Each time, Israel has said it was targeting Hamas personnel, but the strikes have affected journalists from many international outlets — which have invariably held their offices in the same buildings Israel says Hamas is using — and been condemned by press freedom groups. Israel has also controversially said that it does not consider anybody working for Hamas-affiliated organizations to be legitimate journalists. On Tuesday, it killed three Palestinian reporters for Hamas-linked outlets by hitting their cars with missiles.

Paul Danahar, the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief, said the strikes on media buildings felt unprecedented to him:

@pdanahar
Paul Danahar
I don’t think I have ever been in a conflict where so many media buildings were deliberately targeted by a government #Israel #Gaza #Israel
November 20, 2012 9:53 pm via Twitter

Hussein, the AFP reporter, resorted to black humor after the strike:

@sarahussein
Sara Hussein
That awkward email to your family. Dear parents, the building housing our office was bombed today but I’m doing fine. Hope you’re well, Sara
November 20, 2012 11:36 pm via TweetDeck

Later on Tuesday night, the offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press were damaged by a nearby attack, as was a hotel where many international journalists are staying.



Sky News offices damaged in missile attack by Israel as cameraman has leg amputated and five other journalists are wounded

Pre-dawn attack on high-rise building in heart of heavily-populated Gaza
●Israeli Defence Forces: Media centres ‘host Hamas communication antenna’
●Sky News reporter describes how the rocket ‘shredded’ stairwell in block

By Nick Fagge and Larisa Brown, Daily Mail
November 19, 2012

The offices of Sky News in Gaza suffered a direct missile hit yesterday morning – one of two buildings hosting international media targeted by the Israeli army.

A cameraman had to have his leg amputated as a result of his injuries and five other journalists were wounded in the pre-dawn attack on the high-rise building in the heart of the heavily populated city.

The attacks also damaged offices of the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, and a Lebanese-based broadcaster, Al Quds TV, seen as sympathetic to the Islamists.

The Israeli Defence Forces last night maintained the media centres were legitimate targets as they hosted ‘communication antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity against the State of Israel’.

But yesterday Sky News reporter Sam Kiley described how the rocket ‘shredded’ the stairwell between the 14th and 15th floor of the Al-Shuruq building used by the British TV news network, ITN and other foreign media.

Mr Kiley, 48, was sleeping in the office when the missile struck shortly before 7am local time. The windows were blown and shards of glass and debris were scattered onto the street below.

The Sky News Middle East correspondent said: ‘The missile hit the floor above us. There was a big flash of light and the sound of breaking glass.’

He added: ‘This is the headquarters of many of the international media in Gaza City including Sky News Arabia which has a permanent bureau here which we are using during this conflict.’
Pointing to a hole in the wall, Mr Kiley continued: ‘This is the result of one of two shells that were fired at about ten to seven local time.

The Israelis say they were targeting an antenna that is on the roof of the building. This is the stairwell between the 14th and 15th floor. Anyone on this stairwell would have been shredded.’

Hamas Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra added: ‘At least six journalists were wounded when Israeli warplanes hit the TV offices in building in Gaza City.’

No one from ITN was in the building at the time.

Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank, condemned the attacks.

A spokesman said: ‘This attack on journalists and freedom of expression reflects Israel’s disdain for international law and the little value it affords the lives of Palestinians.
‘Last Thursday, the Israeli government said there is no free media in Gaza which is an insult to the brave journalists covering the situation from there.

‘It would now seem that some Israelis want to make sure that there is no free media in Gaza.’

Meanwhile the Israel military claimed the offices of two TV station sympathetic to Hamas – Al Aqsa and Lebanese broadcaster Al Quds – were legitimate targets as militant Palestinian groups had placed communication equipment on the buildings’ rooftops.

NATO was severely criticised for bombing of the studios of government-run Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade that killed 16 at the height of the Kosovo War in April 1999.

In the same month NATO also deliberately bombed the Chinese Embassy in the Serbian capital after discovering it was being used to transmit Yugoslav military communications.

An Israeli government official said: ‘Al Aqsa is an integral part of the Hamas military machine. It is part of Hamas’ command and control.’

Israeli military spokeswoman Lt Col Avital Leibovich accused Hamas of using journalists as ‘human shields’ and urged news organisations to steer clear of Hamas bases and facilities.
And she acknowledged that civilians were in danger but said Palestinian militant groups were to blame.

Lt Col Leibovich said: ‘One of the strategies of Hamas, not only Hamas, but Islamic Jihad as well, is locating large amounts of munitions underneath civilian homes. Many times this is the reason for this big damage or collateral damage.’



IFJ Calls for Probe into Media Targeting in Gaza Violence

Media release from IFJ
November 18, 2012

The International Federation of Journalists (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.

For more information, contact the IFJ on + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 members in 134 countries

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