May 2, 2003, in Rafah, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian TerritoryMiller, a British freelance cameraman and film director with U.K.-based Frostbite Films, was fatally shot in the Gaza Strip. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, the journalist was with a crew in the town of Rafah in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border filming an HBO documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That evening, he and his four-person crew were in a Palestinian home filming the army's demolition of houses in the area that the Israeli army alleged contained tunnels used to smuggle arms.
According to published testimonies of eyewitnesses and an Associated Press Television News cameraman who was filming in the same house, the incident occurred between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., when the group decided to leave. Miller, his producer Saira Shah, and translator Abdul Rahman Abdullah attempted to identify themselves to the Israeli troops in the area while they were leaving. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops were in armored personnel carriers (APCs) about 330 feet (100 meters) away from the house where the journalists had been filming.
The journalists were wearing jackets and helmets marked "TV." Abdullah waved a white flag while Miller used a flashlight to illuminate the flag. As they approached the APCs, the journalists shouted "Hello," and then a shot was fired. The journalists yelled that they were British journalists, and a second shot was fired immediately after. In video footage of the incident, it appears that that the second shot hit Miller, who was struck in the neck. Several more shots followed.
An Israeli army spokesman was quoted as saying that troops in the area returned fire after being fired on by rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Later, the army said that Miller was struck by a bullet from behind, claiming that he may have been hit by Palestinian fire.
A detailed onsite investigation sponsored by Miller's colleagues, friends, and family and conducted by British security consultant Chris Cobb-Smith of Chiron Resources Limited security company (www.chiron-resources.com) concluded that Miller and his crew "were consciously and deliberately targeted by the IDF soldiers." The report added that it is not clear "whether this action is a deliberate policy by the IDF or whether this incident is a result of ill discipline and malicious intent by the junior soldiers." A copy of the investigation is available at a Web site hosted by James Miller's family, www.justice4jamesmiller.com.
According to the investigation, the area where Miller's crew was operating was quiet for about an hour before he was killed. Prior to that time, witnesses heard only sporadic gunfire, but not in the journalists' vicinity. The report concluded that the IDF must have known that the journalists were in the area.
After viewing the video taken of the incident, Cobb-Smith discounted the IDF's claim that RPG fire had occurred before the troops opened fire on the journalists and observed that the shots were fired without warning. Based on the trajectory of the bullets fired, as well as the unanimous testimony of eyewitnesses who said the fire came from the direction of the APC's, Cobb-Smith also disagrees with suggestions from Israeli officials that the shots came from behind the crew.
As of press time, an Israeli military police investigation into the incident was under way, and the IDF's investigation had not been made public.
Job: Camera Operator
Beats Covered: Human Rights, War
Local or Foreign: Foreign
Type of Death: Crossfire/Combat-Related
Suspected Source of Fire: Military Officials
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