Journalists come under Israeli fire in West Bank Hotel

New York, March 12, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned that Israeli forces opened fire on a hotel housing numerous journalists near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In the early morning hours of March 12, Israeli forces directed heavy machine gun fire at the City Inn hotel, from which some 30 to 40 reporters and cameramen, most of them representing western media outlets, were filming an Israeli army operation against the nearby al-Amari refugee camp.

Israeli forces fired on the hotel, which is located some 300 hundred yards from the al-Amari camp, for about 15 minutes, according to press reports and journalists at the scene who were interviewed by CPJ.

Israeli forces gave no prior warning of the attack. Journalists said the gunfire smashed windows and damaged the interior and exterior of the building.

There were no injuries. However, gunfire destroyed an ABC camera after the fleeing crew left it on its tripod. One round struck the camera directly in its lens.

“We call on the Israeli government to provide a full accounting of this disturbing incident,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman told CPJ that the army was responding to Palestinian gunfire emanating from the upper floors of the hotel and from other nearby buildings.

The spokesman added that the army was unaware that journalists were present in the hotel and that Israeli forces ceased fire after news agencies alerted the IDF of the situation.

Several journalists who spoke with CPJ vehemently denied that a gunman was in the hotel, which was located away from cross fire and provided a good vantage point on the refugee camp.

“If there is a gunman, I would not stay in the building for one minute,” ABC television news producer Nasser Atta told The Associated Press.

Journalists argued that the army should have been aware that media representatives were inside the hotel because some 20 clearly identified press vehicles were parked out front. Several Israeli tanks drove by the hotel before the attack, they said.