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

Israel kills three journalists in Gaza as more media offices are damaged

IPI condemns apparent disregard for journalists’ non-combatant status

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. REUTERS/Majdi Fathi

By: Naomi Hunt, Senior Press Freedom Adviser

VIENNA, Nov 21, 2012 – The International Press Institute condemned the Israeli Defense Forces’ apparent total disregard for international standards on the protection of journalists and the treatment of journalists in a conflict zone, following the military’s targeted assassination of three journalists in Gaza. Two journalists from Al Aqsa TV were killed yesterday while driving in their company car, while a third, from Al Quds Educational Radio, was killed in his car later on.  

IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “If indeed these journalists were unarmed non-combatants, as they appear to have been, there is no excuse for their assassination by the Israel Defense Forces. If the IDF claims that they were involved with terrorism they should present evidence that these journalists were indeed combatants. The assassination of journalists is a violation of international standards, which specify that journalists must be treated as non-combatants in conflict zones.”

Under the Geneva Conventions, as amended in 1977, journalists are entitled to the protections offered to civilians, and as such should not be objects of attack. Under Convention IV, Article 3, civilian immunity prohibits states from “the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

Cameraman Mahmoud al-Koumi and logistics assistant Husam Salameh, both 30, who worked for the Hamas-owned television station Al Aqsa, were killed in northern Gaza City when shells hit their car, Ma’an News Agency and local journalists said. They were returning from filming at a hospital when their car was hit, reports said. One local reporter who covered this story but asked not to be identified said that the pair had been travelling in a car “marked with lights and signs that say TV”. He said their car burned for 15 minutes before their charred bodies could be removed.

The journalist told IPI that the Gaza-based Al Aqsa TV, which was founded as a Hamas mouthpiece in 2006 ahead of the elections that eventually split the Palestinian Territories, employs some 400 people, many of whom are not members of Hamas. “Their members are young journalists who graduate; they are not necessarily Hamas.”

Mohammed Abu Eisha, the educational programs director for Al Quds Educational Radio, died later on Tuesday when his car was struck by a missile in Deir el-Balah town, reports said. Local journalists told IPI that the station was founded some months ago to promote “cultural awareness.” An official from the Doha Media Centre said that one of the owners of Al Quds Educational Radio is from the militant group Islamic Jihad, but journalists noted that this station is distinct from Al Quds radio, which belongs to Islamic Jihad, and from the pro-Hamas Al Quds television station, which is based in Beirut.

The official from the Doha Media Centre said he thinks the Al Aqsa journalists were targeted “because there is a war between the Palestinian media in Gaza and the Israel media”.

Israeli military spokesperson Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said that all three journalists were linked to Hamas, the Associated Press reported. An IDF spokesperson was unable to comment on the journalist killings at the time of this writing.  

Shortly after midnight, Israeli missiles targeting other sites caused damage to international news agency Agence-France Presse’s offices and, in another part of the Gaza Strip, temporarily cut off power to the offices of the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and the Doha Media Centre, journalists from those organisations told IPI. No journalists were injured in those attacks.

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