Category: Press Releases, MENA, Israel, Palestinian Territories
By: Naomi Hunt, Senior Press Freedom Adviser

IPI condemns Israeli shelling of media buildings in Gaza conflict

All parties urged to respect role and rights of journalists

Smoke and debris are seen after an Israeli air strike on the office of Hamas television channel Al-Aqsa in a building that also houses other media in Gaza City November 18, 2012. Israel bombed militant targets in Gaza for a fifth straight day on Sunday, launching aerial and naval attacks as its military prepared for a possible ground invasion, though Egypt saw "some indications" of a truce ahead. REUTERS/Majdi Fathi

By: Naomi Hunt, Senior Press Freedom Adviser

VIENNA, Nov 18, 2012 - The International Press Institute strongly condemned the Israeli military bombardment of two buildings housing local and international news media in Gaza, which injured at least six journalists, according to local and international news reports.* IPI further condemned a travel ban imposed on foreign journalists by Hamas.

"We remind Israel and Hamas that journalists covering conflict have a right to do their job without being targeted, regardless of the political affiliation of the media houses they work for," IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said. "Journalists are never a legitimate target, either for violent attack or restrictions on freedom of movement."

Shortly before 2 AM and 7AM on Sunday morning, Israeli missiles struck the Gaza offices and studios of several local and international news media. A Palestinian health ministry spokesperson told AFP: "At least six journalists were wounded, with minor and moderate injuries, when Israeli warplanes hit the al-Quds TV office in the Showa and Housari building in the Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City."

The Hamas-affiliated television station Al Aqsa was reportedly the main target of a second attack, at 7AM, on the Shorouk building. The IDF was quoted by The New York Times as saying the building contained "Hamas operational communication sites that were identified by precise intelligence”.  But the building also housed other media, including Al Quds television, Al Arabiya television, Iran's Press TV, the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency, Sky News, and ITN.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the propaganda war extended to the airwaves as the IDF took over the frequencies of radio stations belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group. Every five minutes, according to Haaretz, the military broadcast an Arabic-language message that said: “To the people of Gaza, Hamas is playing with fire and gambling with your fate. The Israel Defense Force is moving toward the second phase of its operation. For your safety, you should stay away from Hamas infrastructure and personnel."

This followed a darker statement from Hamas that was issued in the Hebrew language on Saturday night, according to the Jerusalem Post. The video reportedly warned: “Don't sleep, because soon we will come to you in your sleep.” The video also singled out Israeli soldiers and warned they would die in Gaza, according to the Jerusalem Post.  It said: “Go forth, brave one, so that you will die.”

Hamas also reportedly prevented a group of foreigners including 22 journalists from exiting the Gaza Strip into Israel. Israel Politik, a blog belonging to the Israeli state, quoted the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying the group of journalists included "nine Italian citizens, six citizens of Japan, one Canadian, one South Korean and a French national". Israel stressed that it was keeping the Erez crossing open.

*This article was corrected to reflect the names and number of buildings attacked.

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