New York, March 9, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned by today’s shooting by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of Palestinian photographer Saif Dahla in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Two witnesses—Dahla’s brother, Reuters photographer Said Dahla and Reuters cameraman Ali Samoudi—told CPJ that there were about half a dozen journalists standing together on the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood in Jenin, covering an Israeli incursion into the city in the early afternoon when the shooting occurred.
Said Dahla and Samoudi said that Saif Dahla, who works for the Agence-France Presse (AFP), was shot when a soldier in a tank about 20 meters (22 yards) away fired a few rounds from a machine gun. One of the bullets, or shrapnel, injured Saif Dahla in his left leg. The journalists said that prior to the incident, Palestinian youths had been throwing stones at the tank, but that when the shooting occurred, the area was quiet. Samoudi said that gunfire exchanges between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the city prior to the incident did not occur in the vicinity where the journalists were working.
Both journalists said that they were clearly identifiable as members of the press, wearing flak jackets, helmets, and marked clothing. They also said that they had been working in the area for more than an hour, adding that the Israeli soldiers in the tank that fired upon them and in other vehicles that were in the vicinity had seen them working the whole time.
According to the journalists, when Dahla was shot, they rushed him into a nearby home, and an ambulance arrived later to take him to a local hospital. Both journalists said that as they were moving Dahla into the house, another burst of gunfire came from the tank.
Said Dahla told CPJ that his brother went home after being treated for his wounds, which he said were not serious.
An Israeli army spokesperson, Major Sharon Feingold told CPJ that Israeli troops entered Jenin to arrest a “senior terrorist,” and that “there was a massive exchange of gunfire, it seems as if an AFP photographer was very lightly wounded.” Feingold added that the soldiers involved in today’s operation are being debriefed, and that the army is “trying to find out if it was IDF gunfire that accidentally injured the photographer.”