June 11, 2001 – A CPJ delegation met with Israeli ambassador to the United States David Ivry to express its deep concern about the cases of 15 journalists wounded by Israeli gunfire while covering unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since last September.
CPJ expressed its concern to the ambassador that in some of these cases, journalists may have been deliberately targeted. At the very least, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) acted recklessly in firing live rounds or rubber-coated steel bullets that injured journalists.
“Unless the Israeli government takes immediate steps to put a stop to these incidents, it is only a matter of time before a journalist is killed,” said CPJ board chairman Gene Roberts at today’s meeting. In some of the cases documented by CPJ, journalists were shot in the legs or head, or even in the hand as it rested on the camera. In one case, a journalist’s camera lens was hit by a bullet. In another case, warning shots were fired at journalists with no justification.
Also joining today’s meeting were CPJ board members Michael Massing and Clarence Page, CPJ deputy director Joel Simon, Middle East program coordinator Joel Campagna, and Washington representative Frank Smyth. The delegation expressed additional concern about the failure of Israeli authorities to seriously investigate cases in which journalists were injured. CPJ has repeatedly communicated its deep concern to Israeli authorities. But despite these requests, the IDF and the Israeli government have in all but a handful of cases failed to report the outcome of investigations into specific incidents or to adequately explain the circumstances of the shootings.
Among the specific cases raised by CPJ were:
- Bertrand Aguirre, the reporter for the French television channel TF1, was hit in the chest by a live round fired by an Israeli border policeman on May 15. While it is uncertain whether the soldier was aiming at Aguirre, video footage shows the border policeman, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, opening fire in the direction of unarmed demonstrators and journalists. Aguirre’s bulletproof vest most likely saved his life.
- Layla Odeh, a journalist for Abu Dhabi TV, was struck in the leg by a live round on April 20 while filming with her camera crew in the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. At the time of the incident, there were no clashes or demonstrations taking place in the area.
- On March 8, an IDF soldier in an armored carrier fired a heavy machine gun in the direction of Reuters journalists Christine Hauser, Ahmed Bahadou, and Suhaib Salem at the Netzarim Junction in Gaza. An IDF spokesman later characterized the gunfire as “warning shots,” claiming the journalists had put themselves at risk by approaching the IDF outpost.
Ambassador Ivry told the delegation that the shooting of journalists “is not our policy and not in our interest.” He promised to convey CPJ’s concerns to the Israeli government.