Local journalist freed as Israeli forces withdraw from South Lebanon; BBC driver killed by shellfire

Read an account of the shelling incident in The Financial Times and in the BBC

New York, May 23, 2000 — A Lebanese free-lance reporter was freed today after nine months in detention, as Israeli troops pushed ahead with their accelerated withdrawal from occupied southern Lebanon, Lebanese sources told CPJ today.

Cosette Elias Ibrahim was freed along with some 140 other detainees from the notorious Khiam detention facility, which was overrun by local residents after forces from Israel’s proxy South Lebanon Army fled the area, sources said. No further details were available about the journalist’s whereabouts or state of health, but it is believed that she and the other former detainees have so far been confined to the immediate area of Khiam, which remains under the control of pro-Israeli forces.

Israeli-occupation forces detained Ibrahim on September 2, while she was visiting her family in the town of Rumaish in Israeli-occupied south Lebanon. She was accused of collaborating with the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

The precise motive for Ibrahim’s arrest was unclear, given that she, like other detainees at Khiam, was never formally charged. Some Lebanese journalists and local human-rights organizations maintained that like many other residents of the occupied zone, Ibrahim was detained for refusing to collaborate with Israeli forces. Others contend that Israeli authorities detained her because of articles she wrote about the situation in south Lebanon.

Lebanese human rights groups have reported that Ibrahim was tortured during her detention.

In a separate incident, a Lebanese driver employed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was killed when a tank round hit his vehicle near the southern village of Bint Jbeil, which Israeli troops evacuated the previous evening, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese driver, Abed Takkoush, a 25-year veteran who had worked with the BBC and NBC, died when his parked car burst into flames after being hit by a tank shell. Takkoush had been escorting BBC reporter Jeremy Bowen and cameraman Malek Kanaan, who were filming some 100 yards away at the time. Israeli authorities said the shell was fired by South Lebanon Army forces, according to the BBC.

However, other journalists on the ground cast doubt on this account, noting that SLA forces had already fled the area. They told CPJ that the most likely source of the shelling was the Israel Defense Forces.

Bowen and Kanaan were not injured.